How Can You Bribe Yourself Into Getting More Work Done?

There is a list of things you should (or need to) do, and then there is a list of things you want to do. How can you leverage what you want to do to finish the things that need to get done?

It seems like every time you’re about to start, you’re procrastinating again… Why does this happen? Well, there’s actually a list of why it’s happening:

  • You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Have Abstract Goals
  • Rewards Are Too Far In The Future
  • Anxiety Is Creeping In
  • Too Much Perfectionism
  • Fear Of Failure

The list can go on forever, but we aren’t here today to talk about procrastination. Instead, we are going to talk about how to possibly cure it.

Take Me Out Of The Game, Coach

I think, therefore I am. I’m human, therefore I’m flawed. This is why I use self-made bribes to motivate (or trick) myself into doing more work.

I recently published an article teaching you how to become a content machine, but I left off bribery because it’s one of those topics that deserves its own explanation.

You’ve probably heard in the past that “willpower is a muscle” that must be trained exercised, and flexed when needed. However, even I can’t write blog post after blog post. It’s bad for creativity, bad for efficiency, and can lead to a burnout.

What about when you don’t have any more left in you?

Bribe yourself with various rewards or something you really want.

How To Bribe Yourself?

All bribes aren’t equal and there are definitely rules to bribing yourself.

For example, finishing one blog post (30 minutes – 1 hour overall work time) doesn’t add up to an all-expenses-paid trip to Cancun, and doing a $1,000/day doesn’t earn a $0.50 burrito (unless you really want it).

Bribe yourself with events, rewards, and gifts that are roughly equal to the work you put out. Yesterday, I was dreading going back to the keyboard…

Although today I’m on fire. Probably because of my time constraint – Vegas baby!

…so I made a deal with the devil (see myself) and allowed myself to play on my Xbox for around an hour. I ended up becoming the champion in a battle royale game which got the juices flowing, regenerated focus, and improved my attitude. After all, there’s nothing better than showing an entire lobby full of noobs you’re the best.

Anyways, after the game finished. I promptly turned off my console and finished what I told myself I would begin. I normally don’t allow rewards before productivity; yesterday, I broke my own rules.

Rules Of Bribes:

  1. The reward must be roughly equivalent to the task accomplished.
  2. The reward comes after you finish the important stuff – no dessert before dinner.
  3. Bribe yourself with a reward that is actually fun – don’t “reward” yourself with cleaning the toilet.
  4. Don’t bribe yourself too often or it may become another form of procrastination.

Making Use Of If/Then/When

I considered making this a rule, but it isn’t always necessary. Basically, you should use the same techniques your parents used on you as a child:

  • When you go to bed, then you need to brush your teeth”
  • If you brush your teeth, then I’ll give you a nickel.”

Using this form of thinking you can “program” your brain to be more computer-like and accomplish more tasks. Create clear goal statements that include the place or time and the thing you have to do.

There’s a study of epilepsy sufferers who were having trouble being regular with their medication regimen. They were given an “if, when, then” statement to make, such as, “If it’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’ve finished brushing my teeth, then I will take my prescribed medication.” That statement increased compliance with the regimen from 55 percent to 79 percent. The key is to be specific about the place and time that serves as a cue for you to take the step that you want to take.

Commitments Instead Of A To-Do List

A personal to-do list is a pretty strong motivator for most people. It gives them the fuel they need to get the job done.

What’s an option left for people who don’t really care how long their list gets – like me?

Remind yourself of your commitments & promises. 

Telling yourself, “you need to do this because it’ll help you,” won’t get you very far. Saying, “you need to do this because XYZ is counting on you,” is much better.

There was a study done on handwashing signs in a Doctor’s office. One sign said, “Hand hygiene protects you from catching diseases” while another one said, “Washing your hands reduces your patient’s chances of infection.” Guess which one performed better?

The second one! The one that reminded the Doctor of their duty to keep patients in a safe, clean environment.

You Tricked Me!

I didn’t think it was possible a few years ago, but you can trick yourself out of the reward. I do it all the time by promising a reward I know is unlikely to be received because I don’t treat myself like me. I treat myself like a child who is clueless about the responsibilities that the “parent me” has on their plate.

  • “Finish recording this podcast and you can go eat at your favorite Thai restaurant for dinner.” Although, I believe my girl said she wanted Mexican food earlier this morning.
  • “Type out the rest of this blog post and you can play Xbox.” Although, I’m pretty sure I only have 45 minutes before I have to be somewhere.
  • “Transcribe this podcast and you can make the impulse purchase that you just thought of.” Although, by the time I finish, I don’t even want it anymore.

You CAN trick yourself. It IS possible. Of course, you may not like you very much after the fact, but you’ll get over it.


Bribes, persuasion statements, and commitments to yourself and others can help you fulfill your life and achieve your goals at a much faster pace than you ever imagined. Do them right and you may never have an issue with procrastination again.

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