Writing Rewards & Penalties

I’ve used rewards for goals in the past to satisfying effect. When I heard rewards work well for Questioners (from Gretchen Rubin‘s The Four Tendencies), I knew I needed to set up writing rewards for my goals.

Who knew it would be such a chore?

2018 Writing GoalsThe perfectionist in me didn’t like the idea of a sheet of notebook paper with a scribbled list, like my original goal list. (I have since made it look better.) I also didn’t want to simply add rewards to my goal list. So like any proper perfectionist, I procrastinated.

Until the deadline I set for this blog post loomed, and the time came to do more than jot down ideas for rewards on random sticky notes and scraps of paper.

Types of Tasks

From the writing goals list itself, I learned I had different types of tasks: recurring and single. Not being able to check off the recurring tasks on my list was annoying. Those tasks also wouldn’t be so simple as to assign one reward. I needed a plan to reward myself at intervals. Further breaking down the recurring ones, I had daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

writing rewards planning scraps
This isn’t even all the notes I had

Thank goodness for scrap paper where I hashed these goals out and got them to line up neatly in their proper categories. But that was not their destination. No, they had a long, messy path to a satisfactory tracking system. But before I could do that, I needed to assign rewards to the tasks.

Writing Rewards

Once I gathered all the random notes of writing rewards ideas, I found I had almost enough for the goals. But assigning the rewards was not so easy, and coming up with the last few, harder still. This is a work in progress. Once I enact the system and find out some rewards too generous and some too stingy, I will make changes.

For rewards, some are writing oriented, like pens, ink, and books, and some are simply things I want and will make me work hard to get them. It’s not that I couldn’t have any of the things I’m using for rewards at any time, but delaying gratification makes the reward more meaningful and provides enough incentive for my questioner mind.

Keeping minimalism in the back of my mind, I did make some rewards non-material. Since I’m not a true minimalist and probably never will be, I still have books and shoes on my list.


The more I work on this, the more I dislike the idea of penalizing myself. At the same time, penalties also prompt me to get my butt in gear. What to do?

writing penalties list

I made a list of items I must give away if I don’t reach certain deadlines. I purposely chose things I love that will not prevent me from reaching other goals. All are writing oriented though. I will not only suffer the loss of a desired possession, but I will have to do a task I dread… go to the Post Office. No stamps.com for me. I don’t care what offer code you have.

Another little penalty I worked out was unique to blog posts. I schedule my posts to go out on the deadline date, even when I haven’t completed them. Should you notice a blank post or one that reads like I put words in a bag and pulled them out one at a time to form a post, you’ll know why.

The final penalty is a doozy that I mentioned previously. Should I fail to write a novel, revise it, and submit it to an agent by the end of this year, I must get a regular job. (I had a hard time even typing that and nearly threw up.)


I’m not sure if my love of tracking is healthy, but if I’m going to make a writing rewards system, I must have a way to track my progress and when I get rewarded. Once again, scratch paper to the rescue.

Inspired by the existing daily tracker in my bullet journal, I revised and revised and revised some more. Finally, I have the beta version of The Writing Rewards Tracker.

writing rewards bullet journal
My bullet journal writing rewards – not bad for the first iteration

I firmly believe this will change (I don’t even have rewards for some tasks) once I’ve used it for a while, but at least I have something. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I’ll update here when I’ve worked with it for a while, and I’ll update my Facebook page with glitches and progress along the way.

What do you think? Have I missed glaring problems already? Do rewards work for you?

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