IF YOU'RE AS BUSY as most people, it's easy to feel overworked and unappreciated. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can take control of your needs and do something to recognize and reward yourself when you finish a project, help a coworker, or set a personal best level of performance. Acknowledging your success, and giving yourself a chance to appreciate and regenerate, are essential to keeping fresh and effective — no matter what your position.

What works best to relax and rejuvenate varies from person to person. For some people, it's reading; for others, it may be exercise; others like to buy something for themselves. They key is to find a reward that is individual enough to be meaningful.

Here's an idea that accomplished exactly that: One of my clients has a “gainsharing” program, in which checks are distributed quarterly to each employee when the company exceeds its profitability goals. It's a nice benefit, but for many people the extra cash just goes to pay another bill. To address that problem, on the same day it handed out the checks, this company gave each employee an additional $50 cash on the condition that they leave work and spend the money on themselves within the next two hours. Employees then had to return to work to show everyone what they had bought and why.

This created a fun and rewarding experience as groups dashed off to Nordstroms, Sportsmart, and so forth. Not only did it give employees a chance to buy something for themselves, it enhanced morale and ended up becoming a team-building exercise.

When everyone got back together, the variety of the purchases was as varied as the employees. One woman had her nails done, many people bought supplies for their favorite hobbies, several purchased electronic organizers, some bought books, and so on. Many people were heard to say how they never buy anything for themselves because of a lack of time, money, and energy, and the tendency they have to pamper their children and not themselves.

It doesn't take much to reward yourself, so take a break and do it!

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees; and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. For more information, visit www.nelson-motivation.com.