How can a reward system help students overcome procrastination?

August 30, 2023

Procrastination is a common challenge that students face when it comes to completing tasks and assignments. It often leads to increased stress, lower productivity, and a decline in academic performance. Recognizing the need to address this issue, many educators and psychologists have suggested implementing a reward system as a potential solution. In this essay, we will discuss how a reward system can be a beneficial tool in helping students overcome procrastination. We will explore how it can provide motivation, improve time management skills, and boost overall academic performance, ultimately enabling students to become more proactive in their approach to learning.

Understanding Procrastination

Procrastination is a common challenge faced by students, causing them to delay or avoid tasks until the last possible moment. This behavior can have detrimental effects on academic performance and overall well-being. Understanding the underlying causes of procrastination is crucial in developing effective strategies to overcome it.

Procrastination often stems from a combination of factors, including fear of failure, difficulty in initiating tasks, lack of motivation, and poor time management skills. Students may also struggle with prioritizing tasks and feeling overwhelmed by the workload. Breaking free from the cycle of procrastination requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses these underlying issues.

The Power of Rewards

One effective strategy in combating procrastination is the implementation of a reward system. A reward system provides students with incentives to complete tasks in a timely manner, helping them overcome their tendency to procrastinate. By linking desirable rewards to the completion of tasks, students are motivated to take action and stay on track.

Key takeaway: Implementing a reward system can help students overcome procrastination by providing incentives for completing tasks in a timely manner. Rewards can be both intrinsic and extrinsic, and should be relevant, varied, and incremental. Consistency and flexibility are important in maintaining the effectiveness of a reward system. While rewards can be effective initially, the ultimate goal should be to foster intrinsic motivation and reduce reliance on external rewards. Setting SMART goals, creating accountability, cultivating a growth mindset, and utilizing time management strategies are also important in combating procrastination. Seeking support from teachers, parents, or mentors can provide guidance and encouragement throughout the process.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Rewards can be categorized into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or a sense of accomplishment. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, stems from external factors such as praise, recognition, or tangible rewards. Both types of motivation play a role in overcoming procrastination.

While intrinsic motivation is crucial for long-term success, extrinsic rewards can serve as initial incentives to get students started on their tasks. By providing immediate gratification, extrinsic rewards can help students overcome the initial resistance to initiating tasks and build momentum.

Creating a Reward System

Designing an effective reward system requires careful consideration of both the type of rewards and the criteria for earning them. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Relevance: The rewards should be meaningful and relevant to the students, aligning with their interests and aspirations. This ensures that the rewards hold value and serve as genuine motivators.

  2. Variety: Incorporating a variety of rewards can cater to different students’ preferences and increase engagement. Rewards can include both tangible items, such as gift cards or small treats, as well as intangible rewards, such as extra free time or the opportunity to choose a preferred activity.

  3. Incremental Rewards: Breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and providing rewards for completing each step can help students stay motivated throughout the process. This approach prevents overwhelming feelings and allows for a sense of progress and accomplishment at each stage.

  4. Consistency: Consistency is key in maintaining the effectiveness of a reward system. Students should know what to expect and understand the criteria for earning rewards. Regularly communicating and reinforcing the reward system helps to establish a sense of structure and accountability.

  5. Flexibility: It is essential to maintain flexibility within the reward system to accommodate individual differences and changing circumstances. Some students may require different types or frequencies of rewards, and adjustments may need to be made accordingly.

Leveraging Behavioral Psychology

The use of rewards to combat procrastination is rooted in behavioral psychology principles. The concept of operant conditioning, pioneered by B.F. Skinner, suggests that behaviors are shaped by their consequences. By associating positive rewards with task completion, students are more likely to repeat the desired behavior.

Overcoming Dependency on Rewards

While rewards can be effective in motivating students to overcome procrastination, the ultimate goal should be to foster intrinsic motivation. Over time, students should develop a sense of internal satisfaction and pride in their accomplishments, reducing the reliance on external rewards.

To achieve this, gradually decreasing the frequency or magnitude of rewards can encourage students to focus on the inherent value of the task itself. Emphasizing the personal growth and long-term benefits of completing tasks can help students shift their mindset from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.


When setting goals, it is important to follow the SMART framework, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific goals clearly define what needs to be accomplished, while measurable goals enable students to track their progress. Achievable goals are realistic and within reach, while relevant goals align with students’ overall objectives. Time-bound goals have a specific deadline, creating a sense of urgency and preventing procrastination.

By breaking down larger tasks into smaller, actionable goals, students can approach their work in a more manageable and organized manner. This not only reduces feelings of overwhelm but also provides a clear roadmap for success.

Creating Accountability

Accountability is a powerful tool in combating procrastination. By sharing their goals with others, students create a sense of external pressure and responsibility. This can be done by partnering with a study buddy, joining a study group, or even publicly announcing goals on social media. Knowing that others are aware of their objectives can motivate students to stay on track and avoid procrastination.

Additionally, students can establish self-accountability systems by utilizing tools such as to-do lists, calendars, or productivity apps. These tools help students visualize their tasks, set deadlines, and track their progress. The act of crossing off completed items or checking off tasks from a list provides a sense of accomplishment and encourages further productivity.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Another important aspect of overcoming procrastination is cultivating a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, practice, and learning from failures. By adopting a growth mindset, students view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles to be avoided.

Key takeaway: Implementing a reward system can help students overcome procrastination by providing incentives to complete tasks in a timely manner. By linking desirable rewards to task completion, students are motivated to take action and stay on track. The reward system should be designed with relevance, variety, incremental rewards, consistency, and flexibility in mind to be effective. However, the ultimate goal should be to foster intrinsic motivation, gradually reducing reliance on external rewards while emphasizing the personal growth and long-term benefits of completing tasks.

Embracing Mistakes and Learning

Procrastination often stems from a fear of failure or making mistakes. Students may avoid tasks out of a desire to protect their self-esteem. However, embracing mistakes and viewing them as learning opportunities can help overcome this fear.

Encouraging students to adopt a growth mindset involves highlighting the value of effort, perseverance, and resilience. By emphasizing that setbacks and mistakes are part of the learning process, students can develop a more positive attitude towards tasks and become less prone to procrastination.

Celebrating Progress

Recognizing and celebrating progress, no matter how small, is crucial in maintaining motivation and overcoming procrastination. Students should be encouraged to acknowledge their achievements and pat themselves on the back for their hard work. This positive reinforcement helps to build confidence, fosters a sense of accomplishment, and encourages further progress.

Time Management Strategies

Effective time management is a key factor in combating procrastination. Students who struggle with procrastination often find it challenging to prioritize their tasks and manage their time effectively. Implementing strategies to improve time management skills can greatly assist in overcoming procrastination.

Key takeaway: Implementing a reward system can help students overcome procrastination by providing incentives for completing tasks in a timely manner. By linking desirable rewards to task completion, students are motivated to take action and stay on track. It is important to consider the relevance and variety of rewards, provide incremental rewards, maintain consistency in the system, and be flexible to accommodate individual differences. However, the ultimate goal should be to cultivate intrinsic motivation and shift the focus from external rewards to the inherent value of the tasks themselves.

Prioritization and Planning

Helping students understand the importance of prioritizing tasks is essential. By identifying and focusing on high-priority tasks, students can allocate their time and energy more efficiently. Encouraging students to create to-do lists, set deadlines, and establish a schedule can provide structure and prevent tasks from piling up.

Breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable parts and scheduling specific time blocks for each task can also help students overcome feelings of overwhelm. This approach allows students to focus on one task at a time, increasing productivity and reducing the likelihood of procrastination.

Minimizing Distractions

Distractions are a common obstacle to productivity and can easily lead to procrastination. Students should be encouraged to identify and minimize distractions in their environment. This may involve turning off notifications on electronic devices, finding a quiet study space, or using productivity apps that block distracting websites or apps during study sessions.

Utilizing Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking work into intervals, typically 25 minutes, called “pomodoros,” followed by short breaks. This technique can be particularly helpful for students who struggle with maintaining focus and avoiding procrastination. By working in short bursts and taking regular breaks, students can maintain their motivation and productivity levels.

Seeking Support

Lastly, seeking support from teachers, parents, or mentors can be invaluable in overcoming procrastination. These individuals can provide guidance, accountability, and encouragement throughout the journey. Regular check-ins, progress discussions, and constructive feedback can help students stay on track and navigate any challenges that arise.

It is important for educators and parents to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment where students feel comfortable seeking assistance. By fostering open lines of communication and providing resources or tools for overcoming procrastination, students can feel empowered to take control of their academic responsibilities.


What is a reward system for students?

A reward system for students is a method that incentivizes and motivates them to complete tasks, assignments, or goals by offering rewards or incentives as positive reinforcements. It is designed to encourage desired behaviors and discourage procrastination.

A reward system can be an effective tool to help students overcome procrastination. By incorporating rewards into their study routine, students are more likely to feel motivated and develop a sense of accomplishment when they complete tasks or achieve their goals. The rewards act as immediate positive reinforcements, creating a positive association with completing tasks on time and discouraging the tendency to procrastinate.

What types of rewards can be used in a student reward system?

Various types of rewards can be used in a student reward system. These can include both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic rewards are internal and personal, such as a sense of achievement or increased self-confidence. Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are external and tangible, like small incentives, tokens, or privileges. Examples of extrinsic rewards may include additional free time, access to preferred activities, small treats, or even a points-based system that can be redeemed for larger rewards in the future.

How should the reward system be implemented?

To implement a reward system effectively, it is important to establish clear goals and expectations for students. These goals should be achievable and broken down into smaller, manageable tasks. Students should understand the criteria for earning a reward and the timeframe within which the tasks should be completed. It is also essential to align the rewards with the students’ interests and preferences to increase their motivation. Regularly communicate the progress and reward achievements promptly to maintain the effectiveness of the system.

Are there any potential drawbacks to using a reward system?

While reward systems can be highly effective, there are a few potential drawbacks. It is crucial to strike a balance between the use of rewards and intrinsic motivation to avoid creating a dependency on external incentives. If not properly managed, the focus on rewards may overshadow the importance of learning for its own sake. Additionally, the rewards must be meaningful to students; otherwise, they may lose interest or see through the system’s intended purpose. Therefore, it is important to continually assess the effectiveness of the reward system and make any necessary adjustments.

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