Pay Yourself

I’m not the greatest as following through on projects. If this were baseball, it’d be great – batting .500! But overall 50% isn’t the best rating in the world for Getting Your Shit Done. Even worse, it’s not an even split of 50% of work and 50% of personal projects are completed. Some work projects die further up the vine while in my care. Maybe that’s out of my hands, but it’s still an investment of my time, energy and creativity thrown into the bin. Outside of that, my completion record at work is exemplary.

Because there’s money involved. I’m paid to care, to craft, to build. No one pays me for personal projects.

So maybe I should start paying myself. I mean, I didn’t finish a 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo without an incentive of some sort, right?

Don’t think this is some crass, money is the most important driver in my life trick. There’s stories and adventures and characters in my head, which are perfectly happy to stay in my head and not on paper. Why would they want to come out? They exist in that perfect, nebulous space of Not Quite Real. It’s Fairyland up there, abstracted away from problems and critical eyes of others. In order to get those ideas out of unreal perfection and into messy, bloody reality, there must be some reward. A tangible benefit for me to throw everyone out of Paradise and into the minds of others, where God knows what will happen.

There’s a few articles I read on rewarding yourself during NaNoWriMo, and those can be applied to other projects. It doesn’t have to be anything major for the mind to respond, either. ToDoIst rewards you with Karma, which has set milestones and Titles for achieving a certain number. It’s overall meaningless, but your brain still sees numbers and a line graph going upwards, based on work you did, and releases some of that sweet Happiness Juice into your bloodstream. It’s silly, but that’s a motivating factor for me to do simple tasks I have stacked in my ToDoIst lists. These all chain into Habit Stacks, so the reward for doing a quick clean of the toilet bowl rewards my brain with Points, and that leads into taking all my vitamins, eating breakfast and reading for 20 minutes in the morning.

I used this for NaNoWriMo in 2018, so gearing up to use it again for daily and weekly goals should be no big deal. Adding a few tasks for getting to a Pomodoro or two for writing twice a day will trigger its own small reward. And by meeting these milestones, I can get ready to reward myself later.

Eli Jones avatar
Eli Jones
Eli Jones is a spectulative fiction writer and data analyst living in the Cascadia Bioregion.