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Make Room For Breaks, Treats, And Rewards
7th January 2022 • The Science of Self • Peter Hollins
00:00:00 00:05:29

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Make sure you are scheduling in ample time to rest and recuperate, as well as time to acknowledge your progress and reward yourself. This is crucial for your ongoing success!

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Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition. 

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When most people start out with making a schedule, they think solely of work. They block in their paid employment and then, consciously or unconsciously, allow themselves the scraps of time around those hours to somehow live the rest of their lives. Kind of depressing when you think about it, right?

Living a more self-disciplined life doesn’t mean you need to live like your own drill sergeant, completely rigid and inflexible, unforgiving, punishing, and joyless. In fact, trying to achieve this is likely to make you less resilient and far less productive in the long run. Zero wiggle room often results in failures, disappointments, and giving in to your old ways. In other words, being too extreme is not particularly sustainable.

Breaks are important. Your rest and recuperation and joy in life is important. For its own sake, but also because it will make you a more focused, whole and motivated person overall. Breaks, treats, and rewards cement and acknowledge your progress and keep your motivation up. Here’s how to make use of them:

How to Use This in Your Life Immediately

Make rewards appropriate. This is obvious—your reward should not undermine or cancel out your achievement. It should also be significant enough to actually mean something to you and should be something you genuinely like and want. Make sure you know exactly when you will be rewarded, and when you reach that milestone, pause and truly relish the joy of your success. Brag a little, honor the occasion, and share your pride. Let the good feelings sink in—they will actively rewire your brain for success and release dopamine, which is a powerful reward neurotransmitter that will make the preceding behavior more likely to be repeated.

If you’ve lost some weight, don’t reward yourself with half a cake and a skipped workout—you are only reversing your progress and telling yourself that you actually prefer to eat poorly and neglect your physical health. Instead, tell yourself how good it feels to live healthily and treat yourself to a massage, a new gadget you’ve had your eye on, or an afternoon off catching up with a loved one.

Rewards and treats don’t have to be material and don’t have to cost a lot of money. A good idea is to make a list of things that give you joy and reinvigorate your purpose and passion. Consult this list when your energy is flagging and you need a pick-me-up. Getting outdoors, socializing with others, enjoying good food and music, moving your body, having a hot bath, snuggling up a with a book or a podcast, or simply trying something new are all great ways to healthily treat and reward your progress.

Get the most from your breaks. Schedule them in like they’re important appointments (they are!) and don’t be tempted to skip over them. A good rule of thumb when working is to have a full break every forty minutes to an hour for around ten minutes. Have a longer break (twenty minutes) for every four hours you work. Make sure you’re never sitting down like a lump for extended periods. Pepper your day with movement and keep things varied.

Get up, stretch your legs, have a hot cup of tea, go outside for a while, chat to a friend, engage in a hobby, have a micro nap or have a healthy snack to replenish your blood sugar. Inject some mindfulness into every one of your breaks and check in with yourself—are your eyes getting strained and need a break? Are you slouching? Hungry? Maybe you need to switch task and come back to a problem later, after letting your unconscious mind chew on it for a while.