The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Review of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

When

When by Daniel Pink discusses the idea that your productivity not only depends on what you do or how you do it, but when you do it. When by Daniel Pink somewhat reminds me of the book, Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. Eat That Frog was my first introduction to considering when you do your work for optimal productivity. Tracy advises the reader to do your most important task or the that one item you keep procrastinating on early in the morning when you’re the most alert or whatever time of day that is for you. When basically takes that basic premise breaks it down, presents peer-reviewed research to back it up, and expands on it.

Infographic, When, Daniel H. Pink, Visual Synopsis, Dani Saveker
When (Daniel H Pink) Visual Synopsis by Dani Saveker

Why I Chose to Read This Book

I think I heard about this book from a podcast. It was probably one of those NPR podcasts. Either way, the idea appealed to me. I am glad I listened.

Morning

Picking up where Tracy left off, Dan Pink breaks down how most people are most productive in the morning and how productivity changes throughout the day. Most people are productive at certain kinds of tasks during those different times. In the morning, for example, people are usually productive at logical tasks. So, doing things such as research or solving problems are a good use of one’s morning time.

Noon

Between the morning time, and the evening time, usually after lunch between 2 and 4 pm is when it is the hardest to focus for most people, which Pink calls a trough. This is most people’s least productive time of the day. Research indicates that the best thing to do during this trough is to take a 10 to 20 minute nap. Too short is not going to be enough to recover and too long might dampen your energy later on. So, research indicates that taking a 20 minute nap is enough to reenergize you for another three hours.

Even better than just a nap, though, is a coffee nap. A coffee nap is when you drink coffee or consume caffeine before you take a nap. It takes coffee, maybe, about 20 to 30 minutes to take effect. So, by the time you’re done with your nap, that caffeine is kicking in, and when you wake up, you’re even more alert than if you had taken a nap without coffee.

But what if you can’t take a nap at your job? In that case, your best bet is to schedule your least important tasks or the tasks that don’t require much thought during your sluggish hours. A typical example is responding to emails. Personally, if I can do something that involves movement, that also helps me make good use of that time.

Infographic, danpink.com, nappucino, how to take the perfect nap, The scientific secrets of perfect timing
When: Napaccino; Source: danpink.com

Evening

During the evening, most people are more productive at more creative work. By the end of the day your mental energy has been exhausted and mental barriers come down, which is ideal to engage in creative activities. The mind tends to separate information into their own categories, but by the end of the day those mental barriers start to fall and the mind is able to make more associations between seemingly unrelated things leading to creative ideas.

But My Body Doesn’t Work That Way!

Some people they may hear this information and say that these recommendations don’t align with their natural productivity rhythms. They may get their most creative work done in the morning and their analytical and logical work later on in the evening. If that’s the case, switch the aforementioned routine. Not everyone is the same, so do what works best for you. The main point is to pay attention to your body and mind’s natural rhythm.

Also, people like working late at night are night owls, which most people have probably heard, but the opposite and probably lesser known term for people who are “morning people” is larks.

When: Larks, Owls, and ‘Third Birds’; Source: danpink.com

Conclusion

One thing I like about the book is that it is research based. I think it’s not uncommon to come across a self-help book that is mostly opinion. Those kinds of books still have some value, especially because research and published data often lag behind what is observed in the real world. This book, though, has the data to back up its claims.

One nitpicky comment, Pink references an alleged conversation of Warren Buffet about prioritizing your goals. You may have heard it before; Buffett tells his pilot that he should only focus on his top 5 goals and ignore the rest. Although Buffet has claimed that he never had that conversation, it’s still a good concept to discuss.

Overall, I think the book is good! The information is relevant and useful. I think that as one gets older, you’re more likely to figure a lot of this out on your own, but I think it’s good to have evidence confirming what you’ve suspected about yourself and how you work. Also, I think it is important to note that Pink is saying that those fluctuations in focus and productivity that you have throughout the day are natural and it’s okay. This is especially important in an increasingly work obsessed world. Don’t be fooled though, embrace your biology. Take a nap.

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