The Premack Principle: Rewarding Hard Work with Something Fun

Have you ever heard of the Premack Principle? It’s often what I use to get things done. Actually, a lot of people probably use it without even realizing that there is a fancy name for it. The idea is that you do something that needs to get done, which is likely to be something less pleasurable, like cleaning a toilet, writing a paper, doing your taxes, or running on the treadmill. Then, you reward yourself by doing something you enjoy, like watching TV, checking out Facebook, going shopping, or eating a cake (which is not really a great reward for working out on the treadmill). The idea is that engaging in more probable responses (the fun stuff) will reinforce a less probable response (the not-so-fun stuff that needs to get done).

So, I find myself using it like this. I force myself to do a project for school, and then I reward myself by visiting Twitter, writing a blog post, talking to a friend on the phone, or something like that. It tends to work for me. The only problem I have is that sometimes I get stuck in the reward activity too long. Like right now. So, here I go to engage in an undesirable activity: finish a report that’s due tomorrow. I’ll be back here when I’m done.

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