Daniel H. Pink is the author of a handful of books, four of which made the New York Times Bestseller List. He authors books about work, management, and behavioral science. Pink’s latest release, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, was released in January of this year and focuses on the science of timing and decision-making.
In When, Pink argues that our decisions—and their quality—are closely linked with the time of day in which we make them. This strict pattern of decision-making is what Pink calls “crucial, unexpected and revealing” and it transcends culture, location, and daily rituals.
Pink says the secret of perfect timing takes into account three points: 1) we experience the same emotional cycle each day; 2) understanding your cycle (i.e. how you tick) will improve performance; and 3) power naps and breaks are a productive part of your work day.
Studies point to an emotional pattern that most people experience each day. In the morning, either just after waking up or a few hours later, we feel pretty good. In the afternoon, especially after lunch, we go through a slump. In the evening, no matter how bad our day was, most of us tend to feel pretty good again. Following this pattern, Pink argues that we make better decisions in the morning and our decision-making skills decrease later in the afternoon.
Pink says we need to take into account our own emotional rhythm and how it works with our circadian rhythm. There are three major chronotypes (how you feel during specific times of the day): 1) the lark, or people who like to get up early; 2) the owl, or people who are late risers and feel their most productive later in the day; and 2) the third bird, or the majority of people who follow the standard pattern.
Analytical, logic-based work should be completed when you’re most alert, and creative work should be completed when your mind is allowed to wander. For the standard “third bird,” this means early morning and later afternoon, respectively. The lark and the owl should adjust accordingly.
No matter your chronotype, Pink discusses the importance of regular breaks and even naps, if necessary. While breaks are sometimes viewed as a waste of time, studies show that regular breaks lead to better results when it comes to work quality. Pink even recommends what he calls a “nappuccino,” in which you have coffee after lunch, set a timer for twenty minutes, and wake up feeling refreshed with the caffeine just hitting your system.
This “when-to” guide provides great insight into human performance and how careful timing and scheduling can positively impact productivity and well-being.