When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

by Daniel H. Pink

Timing is everything. A decision we make in the early morning could be completely different from one we make at night. In this book, you’ll learn how to identify the optimal times you work at, as well as strategies to adapt to work at suboptimal times. You’ll also learn how to overcome the common problems that crop up during the beginning, midpoint and end of projects.

Summary Notes

The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life

“Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms.”

Our cognitive abilities fluctuate throughout the day. We tend to be more focused in the mornings, with our ability to think analytically peaking at around noon. Our alertness and mental vigilance then start to decrease, enabling us to think more creatively. This is the point of day where we are best at solving problems that require us to think insightfully, as our mental inhibitions are lowered. 

Our physical abilities fluctuate similarly too. That’s why exercise confers different benefits at different times. If you’re looking to lose weight, boost your mood and build strength, it’s best to exercise in the morning. On the other hand, if you’re looking to avoid injuries, perform your best and enjoy yourself more, you should exercise in the late afternoon or evening. 

These patterns that dictate our mental and physical abilities are ultimately dependent on our internal body clocks. Although most of us are wired to be most productive in the mornings, some of us produce our best work late at night.

Actions to take

Afternoons and Coffee Spoons

“Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangles of our days.”

We tend to be most unproductive during the afternoons.Our professional and ethical judgment is often impaired during this time too. This holds true regardless of whether we’re morning or evening people and manifests in a variety of ways. For example, we may cut corners, make rash decisions, rush our work, etc. 

We can easily combat this sharp decline in productivity by taking a short break. Simply directing our energy away from our work can restore it. When we return to our tasks, we will feel better, and therefore, perform better. 

Taking a short nap every afternoon is a great way to restore your energy levels and boost your performance. Ideally, your nap should be between 10 - 20 minutes. Any longer and your brain begins to fall into sleep inertia, and you won’t feel like your nap was particularly effective.

Actions to take

Beginnings

“This new period offers a chance to start again by relegating our old selves to the past.”

When we want to create change in our lives, how we start the process is critical. Many of us use temporal landmarks to initiate change in our lives. Take New Year’s Day for example - making a New Year’s resolution is common practice. Other temporal landmarks include the beginning of a new season, month, or any day that holds meaning to you (your birthday, for example). 

Using these landmarks helps us feel like we’re starting fresh, as though we are leaving our old selves behind and making positive changes. They are an opportunity to recover from a mistake or a rough situation and start again. 

It’s certainly a daunting task to begin something alone. When you are learning a new skill on your own or embarking on a solo project, it’s only natural that you will falter, make mistakes, and feel like giving up. This is another important aspect of the beginning of your journey - when you start something together with others, you’ll find it a lot easier to succeed.

Actions to take

Midpoints

“When we reach a midpoint, sometimes we slump, but other times we jump.”

Once you’ve got a good start towards your goals, it’s easy to fall into periods of low motivation, interest, etc. It’s perfectly normal, of course - things like midlife crises are practically a universal experience. 

We see the same thing when we look into our biology. Evolutionary patterns aren’t a slow, steady, upwards climb. Instead, there are often long, stagnant periods with a few bursts of dramatic change.

Although you can’t avoid these slumps in your motivation and performance, becoming aware of them can help you find your drive again. They can act like alarm clocks - when you feel yourself stagnating, it’s a good wake up call. It’s time to re-evaluate your strategy and put more effort in.

Actions to take

Endings

“When we near the end, we kick a little harder.”

The successful end of any journey comes with an energizing spirit of its own. When we approach the end of something - whether a temporal landmark like a decade or when we’re close to achieving a goal - we often feel a sudden spark of motivation. Once we know we’ve only got a little bit of time left, we feel a push to get as much done as possible.

This is also the time when we reflect on our strategies and begin to heavily edit out what we deem nonessential. The desire to not waste any more time grows, and we sharpen our focus to what we believe will pay off the most. For example, we may stop investing in certain friendships or hobbies. 

Endings are certainly significant landmarks in life. They are often met with a mixture of happy and sad emotions - you’re happy you achieved your goals but you’re also sad the experience is over. Many of us find meaning in endings, and this meaning spurs us onwards.

Actions to take

Synching Fast & Slow: The Secrets of Group Timings

“Our ability to survive, even to live, depends on our capacity to coordinate with others.”

Schools, restaurants, sports teams, marching bands, factories, businesses, etc, all require a level of synchronicity among their members. Think about a software team that’s spread out over a few different countries - they may need to coordinate their timings to release a certain product by a specific date. Or an event planner who needs to coordinate technician crews, hospitality workers, presenters, and so on. 

For full synchronicity to be achieved in any group, there must be someone, or something, that sets the pace for everyone to follow. For example, a team lead who tracks the progress of a project, delegates or assigns work as appropriate, and communicates with team members to ensure everyone is on the right track. This pacesetter can even be an external force - the train schedule, for example, could dictate what time your team starts work.

Once everyone is synced to the pace of the group, the next step is to sync to the team, which requires a deep sense of belonging. This is commonly achieved by the use of specific codes, clothes, and physical touch. For example, secret codes within a team to signal when a task should be executed. Or, the uniform for staff at an upscale restaurant. Even a simple high-five when a team member does a good job can create this sense of belonging.

Efficiency at work is just one of the benefits of syncing with a group. Synchronizing naturally makes us feel good, which then helps the group’s wheels turn more smoothly. This positive cycle continues for as long as we are in sync. 

Actions to take

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