10 Ways To Reward Yourself For Working So Hard

You’ve been working hard–coming in early, staying late–so why not reward yourself? Rather than waiting for someone else to do it, here are 10 ways you can pat yourself on the back.

10 Ways To Reward Yourself For Working So Hard
[Image: Flickr user ralph and jenny]

When I was growing up, my parents used to take me out for ice cream when I got good report cards. I’m not so into ice cream now, but when I’ve accomplished something tough, I like to reward myself in a more adult fashion–by getting sushi–spicy tuna rolls and avocado salad, washed down with a glass of Chardonnay.


We all need little rewards in our lives to keep us motivated. Here are some other ways to celebrate triumphs big and small.

1. Take yourself out to breakfast.

You probably buy lunch frequently. But turning the morning meal into something other than a mad dash out the door feels more rare and decadent. Plus, who doesn’t love waffles? In a pinch, you can rise before dawn and hit a 24-hour diner before the rest of your family wakes up.

2. Find a related bribe.

One woman who’s learning French told me that she treats herself to a subtitled French movie for sticking with her lessons. It’s a nice link–though a croissant would probably work too.

3. Goof off online (intentionally).

Admit it: You take quizzes to find out which states best match your personality. The problem is that most of us visit these sites without thinking, and then feel guilty for wasting time. Smart people consciously use these bits of levity as brain breaks after cranking through tasks they’d otherwise put off. Then they enjoy their cat videos guilt free.

4. Be unproductive on the plane.

Yes, plane (and train) trips are great for getting uninterrupted work done. But if you’re traveling for work, work is already getting hours that could be your own. After giving a speech in New York the other night, I bought a copy of Dave Barry’s new book and enjoyed the long train ride back to Philly much more than I would have otherwise.


5. Take a field trip.

Lots of fascinating places–museums, open-air markets, aquariums–are mobbed on weekends but fairly chill on weekdays. Skip out of work a little early as a reward for finishing your work early and become a tourist in your own town.

6. Try (controlled) retail therapy.

The trick is giving yourself a budget to keep any shopaholic tendencies in check. For instance, you could imagine someone has given you a $50 gift certificate for all your hard work. Then you go spend the cash just as you would a real gift certificate–on something completely unnecessary.

7. Take a class.

If you’ve been working late too many nights, maybe it’s time to schedule something you’ll willingly jet out early for. Wine tasting? Bread baking? Stand up paddling? Tap dancing? Take a look at your bucket list and find something that you keep meaning to make space for. You’ve been very good. You deserve the time.

8. Give back.

Spending money on other people is actually correlated with greater feelings of happiness than spending on yourself. So reward yourself by taking a friend out for coffee. Or donate $20 to a classroom that needs it (see for projects). The Hands On Network offers volunteering opportunities for busy people on nights and weekends.

9. Buy yourself flowers.

A bright bouquet in the cube will make you happier and more productive, and as one woman told me, it feels “like a thank you to myself.”


10. Get out of town.

Big triumphs call for big rewards, and a weekend getaway is the perfect prize for surviving a tough week. Research finds that when it comes to travel, anticipation accounts for a major chunk of the associated happiness. So book your adventure by Tuesday and dream about it until you’re in the car Friday night–patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at