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Using Self-Rewards to Keep Up Your Study Motivation

Giving yourself a reward for studying creates a virtuous circle. You’ll feel better as you study and you’ll have a reason to keep going. It might seem silly to place a cookie next to your laptop as you study, but if a cookie is what you crave, it might be the external motivator you need! So how do you choose rewards and integrate them into a study session?

When choosing rewards, there are two questions to consider.

  1. What kinds of rewards do you like?
  2. Is your reward proportional to the amount of work you need to do?

Think of something that you like, something you like enough to motivate you to study. Here are some examples.

  • Eating a snack
  • Watching a show on Netflix
  • Playing a game on your phone
  • Going to the movies
  • Getting new shoes

Some of these rewards are pretty big. You need to choose a reward that you can keep in sight. Suppose your parents decided to give you one dollar for every A on your high school report card. Would this be enough to keep you motivated? In this case, the reward might be too far away to push you to do small tasks, like finish your math homework. It might also be too small to excite you. You need a reward that’s big enough to be proportional to the work you want to accomplish. But you also need a reward that boosts your spirits sooner rather than later. You’ll feel good when you get a reward and start to develop better study habits. This virtuous circle will help you finish your homework and make you a better student. It’s like parenting yourself! And isn’t that what college is all about? (It is.)

Eating a snack is a simple, small reward that can fit easily into a study session. You may have heard of sweets per paragraph, a method some students swear by.

Gummy bears placed on each paragraph in a book
Credit: Debut

But a snack might be too small as a reward for writing the first few pages of a paper or finishing a problem set. You want a reward that suits the task. Watching a 30-minute episode on Netflix is a good reward for writing a short paper or finishing a problem set.

But make sure you aren’t using your reward system to procrastinate! Again, the reward must suit the task. So spending hours to binge an entire Netflix series is obviously not a good reward for finishing a problem set. Perhaps a bigger reward like this is better suited for when you’ve cleared your entire to-do list.

What rewards do you think will work for you? Tweet your goal and the reward you chose to @getchipperapp or use #studyrewards. Send us your ideas!

Some examples for those who are new at this:

  • I will get to eat double fudge chocolate brownies when I finish my philosophy readings #studyrewards
  • First I will preheat the oven, and the *beep* will be my reward for finishing a few paragraphs #studyrewards
  • My brownies are almost done and so is my philosophy reading. Getting hungry… Must. Stay. Focused. #studyrewards

Mike Lodato

Mike Lodato

Chipper Team Member & PhD Student