How to trick yourself into being productive

I’m lazy. Very lazy. Well, sometimes. Other times, I’m the Energizer Bunny on amphetamines.

The laziness conveniently sneaks in when it’s time for housework, awkward phone calls, and generally anything else I don’t want to do.

Why I had to get productive, and fast.

In the summer when I quit my 9-to-5, I was toying with the idea of writing, or going to graduate school. To show Eric and our families that I was taking these pursuits seriously, I began to set 4-7 goals for myself each day. At first, these goals were purely writing- or school-related. Then, when I noticed I was making some - not much, but some - progress with this method, I included chores.

I was, and still am, underweight. This is a problem that frustrates me and I’ve been working for over a year to rectify it. I started to diet-track and added a category to my daily goals sheet where I indicated if I had or hadn’t met my calories that day. This made me think about what I ate and allowed me to see where to improve.

Keeping the momentum up.

Still, the honeymoon phase wore off and my motivation waned. I had to find a way to keep the momentum up.

An incentive. Though getting things done does afford you a clean house and peace of mind, I didn’t feel the pay-off matched the effort I put in.

Meanwhile, since I have been only working part-time and just started freelance writing, I haven’t been able to satisfy my shopping urges. I decided to treat myself for the goals I accomplish.

Since we can’t afford to Pavlov me with shopping, I created a points system. Every day, I can earn up to 1.00 point. There are 4 categories of goals and each category is worth 0.25. If I complete every goal in a category, I give myself 0.25 points.

The categories I chose were Plans (work, social plans, appointments, etc.); Must goals (self-explanatory; goals that have to get done that day); Want goals (goals I want to get done that day, but no big deal if they fall to the side); and Food (did I meet my calorie intake for the day?).

The grown-up gold star system.

Every 10 points, I get a reward of increasing value. This goes until I reach 50 points at which point I’ll restart at zero. Currently, here are the values of the rewards:

  • 10 pts - $5
  • 20 pts - $10
  • 30 pts - $15
  • 40 pts - $20
  • 50 pts - $30

It takes 10 days to accumulate enough points to earn a reward. This system doesn’t seem very economic, does it?

Well, it is. I hardly ever get the full 1.00 point, a fact which used to bother me but now reminds me to be flexible and not too hard on myself. So, to put the reward system into perspective, I started it sometime in September and have yet to reach 40 points. If I start to burn through the points at a quicker pace, I’ll have to rethink the reward values or their frequency.

Why it works.

Well, I don’t know if it’ll work for anyone but me, but I think it’s a great motivational tool.

It’s made me consider the time I have in the day and how to make the most of it.

It’s rewarding in itself to give myself a check mark for a task completed, no matter how small.

I’m less hard on myself for unfinished tasks, and better able to see my accomplishments.

It’s fun keep a list of possible reward items, such as books, apps, clothes, home decor, food, and more.


How do you keep yourself from watching daytime TV all day? Not that I don’t do that too…

Kelsey Sunstrum
Freelance Writer
Writer of Kelsey Says -


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