Rowan Spazzoli

Strategist. Lecturer. Consultant

Tie the habit to the addiction

The process of building habits fascinates me, which may be because I struggle to form good habits and break bad ones. I even got a book on the topic, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I would highly recommend.

I’ve also written about things that help me form habits. These include announcing your goals so that social pressure can influence you and committing to pay an amount if you fail to implement a habit.

Recently though, I’ve found another useful way to maintain a habit. And that is to tie a habit to an addiction.

This came about from my love of a certain smoothie store at the Waterfront food market. The smoothies are quite expensive, so I’ve been trying to ease up on buying them. However, I realized that I could use this addiction to my advantage. I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have one on any day, as long as I have completed 2 hours of thesis work before hand.

The obstacle to getting my smoothie isn’t massive (I considered making it 4 or 6 hours of work). Instead, it’s just the right amount of time for me to setup my work for the day and get some momentum. But not too much for me to completely stop my addiction.

So if you’re looking to start a new habit, look at something you’re hooked on. And tie your goals into that.

Use your addiction to your advantage.

Image was taken at the waterfront in October 🙂

Blog: 348/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day:Tie me down - Gryffin with Elley Duhe

P.s. I know I’ve been a bit slow on the blogs. But I’m still determined to get them done by the end of the year 🙂 

Too many apps open

Ever had too many windows open on your computer or phone? Loads of tabs on the internet browser, music playing, documents open, background apps and folders everywhere?

If you have a powerful device it’ll probably be able to handle this. But most of the time your device will become overburdened and slow. 

It’ll become unresponsive. The battery will drain rapidly.

There are some days when I feel like I have too many things going on at the same time. And, just like the devices, I become unresponsive and my energy drains rapidly.

And I may have 10 things going but I manage to complete none of them.

So I’ve begun keeping a piece of paper next to me when I work. Whenever I want to open up a different bit of work I write down what it is. I then go back to focusing on what I was doing before. 

This way I keep one window, one app or one task going at a time. And open the other ones when it’s necessary.

It might feel like we can multitask. But often all we’re achieving is having all the tasks going but getting none of them done

Image is of our view in Gansbaai

Blog: 334/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Seven Lions, Slander & Dabin - First Time ft Dylan Matthews

He got the job!

A very close friend of mine has been unhappy in his job for some time. In fact, a lot of my posts about poor management and treatment of employees have been based on his stories from the office

But today he got the job of his dreams. At a company that will treat him well. With a much bigger salary.

And he deserves it so much.

Congratulations dude, I’m so proud and excited for you 🙂

Image is from the promenade (I mean, what else did you expect?) 😉

Blog: 293/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey

Song of the day: Born to be yours - Imagine Dragons & Kygo

Leave it to the professionals

I used to try and do as much as possible on my own. I’d do my own tax return instead of paying a tax professional to do it. I’d try and self medicate instead of going to the doctor. I would never have gotten a professional proof reader to check my thesis.

But I’ve had a shift in perspective over the last few years.

Doing stuff yourself can save you money. 

But this month the tax professional (an online system called TaxTim) saved me a massive amount of time. The doctor resolved my issues in 15min. And the professional proof reader will do a much better and quicker job than I would.

And today, instead of trying to do healthy eating on my own, I got a premade kit by FitChef for the next few weeks.

You might be able to save a bit of money by doing it yourself. But you get the job done better (and sometimes more efficiently) if a professional does it for you.

Image is another one from the promenade. First time I’ve been able to go there in a week due to the storms 🙂

Blog: 292/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey

Song of the day: Calvin Harris - Sweet Nothing ft Florence

You have to stay until 5pm

The amount of work that a person produced in a day used to be proportional to the time they spent at the job. If an employee worked from 9 until 5, you could be fairly certain of the volume and value of output that they produced.

So, because time = output, you wanted to maximise the time that the employees spent at work

But in the modern era, time is no longer proportional to output. There are two reasons for this:

  1. It is possible to use a small amount of time to produce large volumes of output. Technology has enabled work to be scalable, so 1 intense hour of work can be worth more than 8 regular hours
  2. With the number of distractions available to us nowadays, it’s possible to spend a whole day at work and do absolutely no work. If you’re not feeling motivated, you could spend most of your day on social media and produce the bare minimum output to get by.

Because of these two changes, keeping employees around for a mandatory 8 hours no longer guarantees a certain level of output.

Instead, creating output involves motivating the employees effectively. And part of this is giving them autonomy over their work.

The simplest way to do this: flexitime

As long as an employee finishes their work to an acceptable standard, they can go home when they want. Some structure can be placed on this, like a minimum amount of time at the job or being present for certain meetings.

But by allowing an employee to be flexible, they’re likely to produce more output in the allotted time AND get less distracted. Because if they finish their work, they can go home.

The world of work has changed. Forcing your employees to stay around is no longer the best way to do things. Give them some freedom, and watch their motivation soar.

Image was taken outside the economics building earlier this year 🙂

Blog: 287/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey

Song of the day: Father John Misty - I love you, honeybear


Sometimes I’m able to complete work in a sprint, running unhindered at top speed. Sometimes, my work pattern resembles a walk or light jog, a consistent pace that keeps your heart rate up but doesn’t tire you. But often, with more complex work, I’ll be wading.

When you’re wading through work, each step is slow and arduous. Gaining momentum is difficult and it takes much higher levels of focus. Progress is slow, and you can wade all day and feel like you’ve gone nowhere.

But the work that requires you to wade is the valuable work. It’s the stuff that one would normally shy away from. It requires concentration, determination and persistence. 

It might feel better to take on work that you can breeze through, and ignore the tough stuff. But it’s the wading work that is more worthwhile and helps you develop.

Get stuck in.

Image is of me and Jono wading into the Sedgefield lagoon, while fishing, on our 2015 friend vacation

Blog: 284/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Grimes - Oblivion

Stifling Bureaucracy

I hate bureaucracy.

And many other people do too.

It results in situations like the one I experienced today.

But where did it come from? And why do we just accept it?

The Rise of Scientific Management

During the industrial revolution, the world witnessed machines take the place of manual work. Where there once once a horse drawn cart, there was the steam train. Where there had been hand weaving, the spinning jenny took its place.

People began applying scientific process to improve almost any set of processes. And this permeated into the processes of organisations. Hierarchical and scientific management was born.

This type of management was often called Taylorism, named after one of the early writers on management, Fredrick Taylor. The basic principle was to run organisations like machines. Design them with structure , make the parts (i.e. people) work to their maximum, give them as little inputs as possible and replace parts when they get worn out.

This worked…. depending on who you ask.

Henry Ford adopted this technique. Every person on his assembly line had one job that would take between 30 and 60 seconds. They could be trained on the same day they were hired. And they were only tasked with doing that single job.

And Ford was lauded for their productivity. BUT… they also had a staff turnover rate of between 3 and 5. That meant that, effectively, the entire production plant was replaced every 2-4 months.

People saw that Taylorism worked to increase productivity. And so it spread like wildfire

Same tool, different challenges

The problem is that Taylorism works in a very specific setting. It requires a fairly routine set of tasks, with consistent inputs and outputs as well as an ability to replace the components when needed.

So this hierarchical approach might work for some things nowadays. Maybe some factories have high labour input. Accounting and law firms use a similar process with their interns.

But the reality is that even in places where this system currently applies, it is rapidly fading. Manufacturing jobs are falling away to machines, accounting and law are both becoming more automated, meaning that people themselves need to be more differentiated.

So basically,  this method doesn’t work in any role that values creativity, individualism, self-motivation, autonomy, strategic thinking, critical analysis etc. The parts are no longer as interchangeable. You can’t be innovative on a production line when you only do one tiny task.

Yet, the same Taylorist approach to managing organisations is applied from top to bottom.


No room to move

(NB: this is a bit of a rant, so brace yourself)


Planning with the monkey

One of my favourite blog posts of all time is Why Procrastinators Procrastinate by Tim Urban. In it, he describes two different “brains”, one of the procrastinator, which looks like this:

NP brain

And the brain of the non-procrastinator, which looks like this:

P brain

As you can see, the main difference between the two is the instant gratification monkey. This monkey derails the rational decision maker constantly. He directs the procrastinator to seek food (even if he’s not hungry), meander through the internet, take naps and clean the house. All of this instead of working.

My brain looks like the procrastinators brain. Except the monkey is not a cute, innocent looking creature. I have an instant gratification gorilla called Dave and he is very prepared to beat the daylights out of my rational decision making side as often as possible.

black gorilla closed up photography

Actual picture of Dave, ready to ruin my day (Photo by Pixabay) 

So Dave is regularly able to derail my day. But it’s okay, I’m usually able to recover some productivity. And on deadline days, Dave lets me have an extra bit of time as long as I feed him properly.

A week with no Dave

Dave and I have gotten quite good at living together. However, I have a major problem:

I never take into account that Dave will still be around tomorrow, next week or next month

For example, I’ve said to myself that next week I have no appointments for anything. So I’ll be able to put in at least 50 hours of work. Which would be fine, if Dave didn’t exist.

But he does.

And so I will get some work done.

And Dave will take his share of time too.

I did the same thing with this week. I estimated the amount of time I would have to work based on the idea that I would be completely rational and able to stay focused for an outrageous amount of time.  And I do the same with most of my work.

When I then get to the time that has been planned, I realise that Dave is still around. And I’m sent into a panic when I try and achieve maximum output when, in fact, I have a giant gorilla distracting me.

What are you on about Rowan?

Hold your horses (and monkeys), there’s a point to this.

When I plan my life and time, I do so with the maximum objectives in mind. As if all my time is spent optimally and there are no hiccups along the way. And 99 times out of 100, there will be something that sets me off course. Whether it’s internal, with my instant gratification gorilla distracting me, or external, with my stuff being stolen

This makes me feel like I’m consistently not living up to my expectations. As if I’m failing, again and again.

But I’m not.

I’m actually just plodding along at normal Rowan pace. Though my expectations are set way above that. So I feel as if they are constantly being missed.

I try to plan my life as if there is no Dave. But I should plan it with the active recognition that he is around. That he will be here tomorrow, next week and next month. Therefore I can continue to fight him (and lose) or I can accept that he is going to be here and make room for him.

I should plan for a distraction. For tiredness. For unexpected events.

I need to plan with Dave. Set up time to drift off, allow for naps and the odd derailment.

And in doing this, I’ll set more reasonable and achievable expectations for myself. Allowing me to be less on edge and allowing Dave the play time he needs.

Image was taken at Cape Point a few weeks ago. I’ve uploaded a different picture of this guy before, but I’m still upset he stole our Doritos

Blog: 204/365

Song of the day:  Fin Evans – Never Forget You (Feat. Alex Foster)