Educate November 2018

Book Review: “When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink


Written By: Sharon B. Brown

Daniel Pink’s 2017 book “When” satisfies on two levels. It’s a fascinating study of timing with thought-provoking facts and ideas, and it’s also a practical guide – “not a how-to but a when-to” – filled with implementable tactics and exercises for us time-bound humans. Oh, and it’s funny, too, like when Pink acknowledges that the shape of one of his (many) charts “resembles the bat symbol.” I thoroughly enjoyed “When.”

Part One focuses on the timing of our days. For most people, the afternoon slump is real! Most of us, Pink says, start our day with a morning high followed by an afternoon slump (usually about seven hours after waking up) and then experience another period of higher energy in the early evening.

In the workplace, an ideal day would take this flow into account and have us working on tasks that require focus or analysis in the morning. Afternoons would be held for brainstorming and producing insights when the brain isn’t quite so focused. And no matter what, we need to look out for the “most unproductive moment of the day,” 2:55 in the afternoon. If you can, head it off with a 10-minute walk at 2:45!

Pink’s “Time Hackers Handbooks” found at the end of each chapter are my favorite parts of his book. The first one advises us to “know our when” – in other words, know when our personal highs and lows occur and then align activities accordingly. And I love this: he suggests we create a break list to go along with our to-do lists. A well-timed break can make a big difference in a workday. One of the studies he cites says we should work for precisely 52 minutes and then break for 17. But at the very least, for every hour worked, take five minutes to break away and recharge.

Part Two breaks down beginnings, endings and midpoints. Time hacks and tips abound, all stemming from Pink’s extensive research. Have you heard of a premortem? This is where you begin a project by imagining it complete but things didn’t go so well. Consider what went wrong and create a plan with steps to avoid this outcome. 
Among other things, he also touches on the best times for surgeries, interviews and even weddings.

Here’s another tip I found helpful: Pink recommends that we end the workday with three “small and deliberate actions” intended to help you end the day on a high note.

Write down what you accomplished.

Plan for tomorrow.

Send a thank you email, card or note.

Speaking of endings, Pinks closes his book on a personal and thoughtful note. He lays out why the science of timing is so important for us to understand and describes how his thinking has changed since completing the book. He also includes a reading list and over 20 pages of notes to peruse. I recommend taking time to read and reflect on his findings, and I predict that you’ll come away with a new way of thinking about your days and the timing of your activities as well.

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