Crafting Personal Reward System

On how to align personal rewards with the job well done.

This post will have 2 parts, with this one focused on the idea, and 2nd will cover technical implementation


Those of us lucky enough to have a stable income get paid at the beginning of each month. This means that you get that dopamine hit only once a month for work that consumes the majority of your awake hours most of the days. On the contrary, your phone offers those dopamine hits at a way cheaper price -> you only need to press that notification pop-up, open that flashy app icon, or scroll that news feed.

Is it such a surprise that many people find it hard to see meaning in their work and lack the motivation to put in more effort into their careers?

Wouldn’t it be great if we can align daily actions that matter to long-term goals?

On Motivation

Many of the best things in life – good relationships, fulfilling career, solid health, and financial stability need a lot of up-front effort before you can see meaningful results. You don’t get those rock-hard abs after the first workout, and most of the value of your investments will be generated 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Myself, I find it hard to get certain things done (I still haven’t signed up for a personal doctor since moving to Tallinn or and haven’t changed my driving license. And I should call my family and friends more often).

So what I’m struggling with is “Not urgent, but important” Quadrant from Steven Covey’s book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (30th Anniversary Edition) on Amazon).

File:7 habits decision-making matrix.png
Decision-Making Matrix, from Wikimedia

Getting inspiration from the freelance world

I remember just starting out to earn money by developing software. I’ve used a well-known freelance portal to find jobs that I was qualified enough for, and I crafted lengthy, personalized lengthy letters outlining the solution or even doing small PoC first, showing that I care.

I went the extra mile to make sure I’d be noticed and would stand out among complacent competitors. And the thrill of getting and an interview, winning the big, and getting paid after was hard to describe. I was hooked up on the fast cycle – find a job, make a bid, get it done, get paid. It felt like a game, rather than a “job”.

What if those of us working full-time jobs could replicate the thrill of closing a deal?

My personal need

I want to receive positive reinforcement when I accomplish something good in the long term. (Including finishing work tasks, personal chores, and long-procrastinated things).

My context might be very different from yours, but the broad idea should be applicable
For the context – I’m very conservative with spending and prefer to save and invest money. When I do buy something significant it’s preceded by a long personal battle with myself – “Do I really needed? Would future Denys prefer that I buy an iPad or invest into the market?”.

And although I don’t spend money on a lot of things, I do enjoy tech gadgets, and when I do buy them I often regret not doing that sooner (like with my robot vacuum cleaner, which has been an amazing value for me). So if I do buy some things in the end, and if I do enjoy it, why not change the attitude to more positive and motivating one?

My reward system idea

Instead of haggling with myself about discretionary spending and feeling somewhat guilty for buying something non-essential, I could turn it around – have a “dream account”, from which I can buy whatever I want.

And the account will grow automatically by accomplishing things that are good in the long-term: doing great work at my day job, working out, doing things I don’t enjoy but that are important – health checkups, visiting the dentist, etc.

In this case, I’m achieving several goals:

  1. I connect tasks and duties to delayed reward, making the process more gratifying
  2. I get to experience the thrill from “deposit” notification into my “dream account” (and connect the task with the short-term reward)
  3. Bonus for me – I’ll be able to buy gadgets from the special account without feeling guilty as I did indeed earn it, and the anticipation of buying something can bring even more joy than actual process of buying.


The main idea would be – build a system where “task” completion can be integrated with a reward system that will determine and issue appropriate rewards.

So far the reward that I’m mostly interested in is a monetary one – sending money from “main” account into “dream/reward” account, but in future, the system should be extendable to other kinds of rewards, think:

  • sending funny GIF in telegram
  • Flashing my smart lamp with fun colors
  • Unblocking website where I watch TV shows/movies

Rough Tech Outline

I see roughly 3 pieces in the system:

  1. Integration layer.
  2. Reward System.
  3. Action services

Let’s look a bit more in details:

Integration layer

At minimum, integration layer should provide WebHook endpoint for services that have the ability to publish events (push model) and cron that would poll services that don’t have such option. For example Garmin has push model supported, but many other service would provide only “read” API (for example in this repo there’s SDK for fetching data about iCloud reminders Most likely some rudimentary state service has to be implemented, to be able to determine changes (for example, previous fetch has detected 10 “done” tasks, and current detected 12 – thus 2 tasks were completed in between)

Reward system

The main part. Should store the mapping between events (such as reminder completed) and zero or more actions (transfer money, send a message, ignore if the task is “not important”).

Action Service

This is the actual “action” part. Should be super secure against misuse as it may have things like bank API access token, etc. Luckily for me EU regulates banks to have unified API, so in theory, I should be able to get an access token and initiate payments:

Implementation ideas

Overall, I’m willing to get my hands dirty and do a bunch of coding. From another side, a lot of the work on integration seems to be solvable with things like IFTT (If This Then That) or maybe even with Apple Shortcuts.

So I’ll take some time to explore the options and come back with Part 2 show-casing the implementation and results!

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