Why timing is important?
The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
BY DANIEL H. PINK
“This is a book about timing. We all know that timing is everything. Trouble is, we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives present a never-ending stream of ‘when’ decisions—when to change careers, deliver bad news, schedule a class, end a marriage, go for a run, or get serious about a project or a person. But most of these decisions emanate from a steamy bog of intuition and guesswork. Timing, we believe, is an art.
I will show that timing is really a science—an emerging body of multifaceted, multidisciplinary research that offers fresh insights into the human condition and useful guidance on working smarter and living better. Visit any bookstore or library, and you will see a shelf (or twelve) stacked with books about how to do various things—from win friends and influence people to speak Tagalog in a month. The output is so massive that these volumes require their own category: a how-to. Think of this book as a new genre altogether—a when-to book.”
~ Daniel H. Pink from When
The book has three parts. We start by looking at “The Day” (in which we learn how to optimize our daily rhythms) then we move on to “Beginnings, Endings, and In Between” (in which we step back and look at more macro rhythms in life and projects) and then we wrap up with “Synching and Thinking” (in which we put it all together with teams and big-picture thinking).
I’m excited to share a few of my favorites so let’s jump in!
THE HIDDEN PATTERN OF EVERYDAY LIFE
If you want to measure the world’s emotional state, to find a mood ring large enough to encircle the globe, you could do worse than Twitter. Nearly one billion human beings have accounts, and they post roughly 6,000 tweets every second. The sheer volume of these mini messages—what people say and how they say it —has produced an ocean of data that social scientists can swim through to understand human behavior..
Twitter Research about correlating tweets posted and mood swings of people over time.
A few years ago, two Cornell University sociologists, Michael Macy and Scott Golder, studied more than 500 million tweets that 2.4 million users in eighty-four countries posted over a two-year period. They hoped to use this trove to measure people’s emotions—in particular, how “positive affect” and “negative affect” varied over time.
What Macy and Golder found, and published in the eminent journal Science,was a remarkably consistent pattern across people’s waking hours. Positive affect—language revealing that tweeters felt active, engaged, and hopeful— generally rose in the morning, plummeted in the afternoon, and climbed back up again in the early evening.
Across continents and time zones, as predictable as the ocean tides, was the same daily oscillation—a peak, a trough, and a rebound. Beneath the surface of our everyday life is a hidden pattern: crucial, unexpected, and revealing.
LARKS, OWLS, AND THIRD BIRDS
Human beings don’t all experience a day in precisely the same way. Each of us has a “chronotype”—a personal pattern of circadian rhythms(from the Latin circa [around] and diem [day] that influences our physiology and psychology. The Edisons among us are late chronotypes.They wake long after sunrise, detest mornings, and don’t begin peaking until late afternoon or early evening. Others of us are early chronotypes. They rise easily and feel energized during the day but wear out by evening. Some of us are owls;others of us are larks.
The first systematic effort to measure differences in humans’ internal clocks came in 1976 when two scientists, one Swedish, the other British, published a nineteen-question chronotype assessment. Several years later, two chronobiologists, American Martha Merrow and German Till Roenneberg, developed what became an even more widely used assessment, the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire (MCTQ), which distinguishes between people’s sleep patterns on “work days” (when we usually must be awake by a certain hour) and “free days” (when we can awaken when we choose). People respond to questions and then receive a numerical score. Please take the test and discover your chronotype.For example, when I took the MCTQ, I landed in the “definitely morning” category.
However, Roenneberg, the world’s best-known chronobiologist, has offered an even easier way to determine one’s chronotype. In fact, you can do it right now.
Please think about your behavior during “free days”—days when you’re not required to awaken at a specific time. Now answer these three questions:
1. What time do you usually go to sleep?
2. What time do you usually wake up?
3. What is the middle of those two times—that is, what is your midpoint of sleep? (For instance, if you typically fall asleep around 11:30 p.m. and wake up at 7:30 a.m., your midpoint is 3:30 a.m.)
Chances are, you were neither a complete lark nor an utter owl, but somewhere in the middle—what is call a “third bird.” That is, if you plot people’s chronotypes on a graph, the result looks like a bell curve. Most people are neither larks nor owls. According to research over several decades and across different continents, between about 60 percent and 80 percent of us are third birds.
How to plan your day according to your chronotype
Step 1:- Take the MCTQ test if not taken already. Click here to take it.
Step 2:- Define the tasks you will be doing throughout the day and plan according to your chronotype
Step 3:- Third, look at chart below to figure out the optimal time of day
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
In chapter 1 we learned about some curious results on Denmark’s national standardized exams. Danish schoolchildren who take the tests in the afternoon score significantly worse than those who take the exams earlier in the day. To a school principal or education policy maker, the response seems obvious: Whatever it takes, move all the tests to the morning. However, the researchers also discovered another remedy, one with applications beyond schools and tests, that is remarkably easy to explain and implement.
When the Danish students had a twenty- to thirty-minute break “to eat, play, and chat” before a test, their scores did not decline. In fact, they increased. As the researchers note, “A break causes an improvement that is larger than the hourly deterioration.” That is, scores go down after noon. But scores go up by a higher amount after breaks.
Taking a test in the afternoon without a break produces scores that are equivalent to spending less time in school each year and having parents with lower incomes and less education. But taking the same test after a twenty- to thirty-minute break leads to scores that are equivalent to students spending three additional weeks in the classroom and having somewhat wealthier and better-educated parents. And the benefits were the greatest for the lowest-performing students.
In Israel, two judicial boards process about 40 percent of the country’s parole requests. At their helm are individual judges whose job is to hear prisoners’ cases one after another and make decisions about their fate. Should this prisoner be released because she’s served enough time on her sentence and shown sufficient signs of rehabilitation? Should that one, already granted parole, now be permitted to move about without his tracking device?
In 2011 three social scientists (two Israelis and one American) used data from these two parole boards to examine judicial decision-making. They found that, in general, judges were more likely to issue a favorable ruling—granting the prisoner parole or allowing him to remove an ankle monitor—in the morning than in the afternoon. (The study controlled for the type of prisoner, the severity of the offense, and other factors.) But the pattern of decision-making was more complicated, and more intriguing, than a simple a.m./p.m. divide.
The following chart shows what happened. Early in the day, judges ruled in favor of prisoners about 65 percent of the time. But as the morning wore on, that rate declined. And by late morning, their favorable rulings dropped to nearly zero. So a prisoner slotted for a 9 a.m. hearing was likely to get parole while one slotted for 11:45 a.m. had essentially no chance at all—regardless of the facts of the case. Put another way, since the default decision on boards is typically not to grant parole, judges deviated from the status quo during some hours and reinforced it during others.
But look what happens after the judges take a break. Immediately after that first break, for lunch, they become more forgiving—more willing to deviate from the default—only to sink into a more hard-line attitude after a few hours.
So if the trough is the poison and restorative breaks are the antidote, what should those breaks look like? There’s no single answer, but science offers five guiding principles.
1. Something beats nothing.
One problem with afternoons is that if we stick with a task too long, we lose sight of the goal we’re trying to achieve, a process known as “habituation.” Short breaks from a task can prevent habituation, help us maintain focus, and reactivate our commitment to a goal. And frequent short breaks are more effective than occasional ones.
DeskTime, a company that makes productivity-tracking software, says that “what the most productive 10% of our users have in common is their ability to take effective breaks.” Specifically, after analyzing its own data, DeskTime claims to have discovered a golden ratio of work and rest. High performers, its research concludes, work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes. DeskTime never published the data in a peer-reviewed journal, so your mileage may vary. But the evidence is overwhelming that short breaks are effective—and deliver considerable bang for their limited buck. Even “micro-breaks” can be helpful.
2. Moving beats stationary.
Sitting, we’ve been told, is the new smoking—a clear and present danger to our health. But it also leaves us more susceptible to the dangers of the trough, which is why simply standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday can be potent. One study showed that hourly five-minute walking breaks boosted energy levels, sharpened focus, and “improved mood throughout the day and reduced feelings of fatigue in the late afternoon.” These “microbursts of activity,” as the researchers call them, were also more effective than a single thirty-minute walking break—so much so that the researchers suggest that organizations “introduce physically active breaks during the workday routine.” Regular short walking breaks in the workplace also increase motivation and concentration and enhance creativity.
3. Social beats solo.
Time alone can be replenishing, especially for us introverts. But much of the research on restorative breaks points toward the greater power of being with others, particularly when we’re free to choose with whom we spend the time. In high-stress occupations like nursing, social and collective rest breaks not only minimize physical strain and cut down on medical errors, they also reduce turnover; nurses who take these sorts of breaks are more likely to stay at their jobs.
4. Outside beats inside.
Nature breaks may replenish us the most. Being close to trees, plants, rivers, and streams is a powerful mental restorative, one whose potency most of us don’t appreciate. For example, people who take short walks outdoors return with better moods and greater replenishment than people who walk indoors.
What’s more, while people predicted they’d be happier being outside, they underestimated how much happier. Taking a few minutes to be in nature is better than spending those minutes in a building. Looking out a window into nature is a better micro-break than looking at a wall or your cubicle. Even taking a break indoors amid plants is better than doing so in a green-free zone.
5. Fully detached beats semidetached.
By now, it’s well known that 99 percent of us cannot multitask. Yet, when we take a break, we often try to combine it with another cognitively demanding activity—perhaps checking our text messages or talking to a colleague about a work issue. That’s a mistake. In the same South Korean study mentioned earlier, relaxation breaks (stretching or daydreaming) eased stress and boosted mood in a way that multitasking breaks did not. Tech-free breaks also “increase vigor and reduce emotional exhaustion.”
As other researchers put it, “Psychological detachment from work, in addition to physical detachment, is crucial, as continuing to think about job demands during breaks may result in strain.”
NAPPUCCINO: - Afternoon Naps of Productivity
This was one of the interesting chapter from this book. I always saw the people how took naps in afternoon as a unproductive and lazy person. But this chapter totally changed the way I look at afternoon naps.
Naps between thirty and ninety minutes can produce some long-term benefits, they come with steep costs. The ideal naps—those that combine effectiveness with efficiency—are far shorter, usually between ten and twenty minutes.
For instance, an Australian study published in the journal Sleep found that five-minute naps did little to reduce fatigue, increase vigor, or sharpen thinking. But ten-minute naps had positive effects that lasted nearly three hours. Slightly longer naps were also effective. But once the nap lasted beyond about the twenty-minute mark, our body and brain began to pay a price. That price is known as “sleep inertia”—the confused, boggy feeling we typically have upon waking.
With brief ten- to twenty-minute naps, the effect on cognitive functioning is positive from the moment of awakening. But with slightly longer snoozes, the napper begins in negative territory—that’s sleep inertia. And with naps of more than an hour, cognitive functioning drops for even longer before it reaches a prenap state and eventually turns positive. In general, concludes one analysis of about twenty years of napping research, healthy adults “should ideally nap for approximately 10 to 20 minutes.”
One more effective way to boost the power of naps is to drink coffee before a nap: - NAPPUCCINO
One study makes this case. The experimenters divided participants into three groups and gave them all a thirty-minute mid afternoon break before sitting them at a driving simulator. One group received a placebo pill. The second received two hundred milligrams of caffeine. The third received that same two hundred milligrams of caffeine and then took a brief nap. When it came time to perform, the caffeine-only group outperformed the placebo group. But the group that ingested caffeine and then had a nap easily bested them both.
Since caffeine takes about twenty-five minutes to enter the bloodstream, they were getting asecondary boost from the drug by the time their naps were ending. Other researchers have found the same results—that caffeine, usually in the form of coffee, followed by a nap of ten to twenty minutes, is the ideal technique for staving off sleepiness and increasing performance.
How to take a Perfect Nap:-
1. Find your afternoon trough time.
The Mayo Clinic says that the best time for a nap is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. You’ll likely see a consistent block of time when things begin to go south, which for many people is about seven hours after waking. This is your optimal nap time.
2. Down a cup of coffee
Seriously. The most efficient nap is the nappuccino. The caffeine won’t fully engage in your bloodstream for about twenty-five minutes, so drink up right before you lie down.
3. Set a timer on your phone for twenty-five minutes.
If you nap for more than about a half hour, sleep inertia takes over and you need extra time to recover. If you nap for less than five minutes, you don’t get much benefit. But naps between ten and twenty minutes measurably boost alertness and mental function, and don’t leave you feeling even sleepier than you were before. Since it takes most people about seven minutes to nod off, the twenty-five-minute countdown clock is ideal. And, of course, when you wake up, the caffeine is beginning to kick in.
KINDS OF RESTORATIVE BREAKS: A MENU
A replenishing break need not be lengthy. Even breaks that last a minute or less—what researchers call “micro-breaks”—can pay dividends. Consider these:
The 20–20–20 rule—Before you begin a task, set a timer. Then, everytwenty minutes, look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. If you’re working at a computer, this micro-break will rest your eyes and improves your posture, both of which can fight fatigue.
Wiggle your body to reset your mind—One of the simplest breaks of all: Stand up for sixty seconds, shake your arms and legs, flex your muscles, rotate your core, sit back down.
2. Moving breaks
Most of us sit too much and move too little.
Take a five-minute walk every hour—As we have learned, five-minutewalk breaks are powerful. They’re feasible for most people. And they’re especially useful during the trough.
3. Mental gear-shifting break
Our brains suffer fatigue just as much as our bodies do—and that’s a big factor in the trough. Give your brain a break by trying these:
Meditate—Meditation is one of the most effective breaks—and micro-
breaks—of all. Check out material from UCLA
(http://marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations), which offers guided
meditations as short as three minutes.
Lighten up—Listen to a comedy podcast. Read a joke book. If you canfind a little privacy, put on your headphones and jam out for a song or two. There’s even evidence from one study on the replenishing effects of watching dog videos.
BEGINNINGS: When to Start
Each year we all make a New Year’s resolution. On January 1 of some year, you resolved to study hard, exercise more, or start a diet plan. Maybe you kept your resolution and rectified your health and family relations. Or maybe, by February, you might have already given up on them due to many factors and went back to old routines. Regardless of your resolution’s fate, though, the date you chose to motivate yourself reveals another dimension of the power of beginnings.
The first day of the year is what social scientists call a “temporal landmark.” Just as we human beings rely on landmarks to navigate space to reach the destination by using Google Maps or landmarks we know to reach our home like take a right at Petrol Station in the same way we also use landmarks to navigate time. Certain dates function like that landmarks like Petrol Station. They stand out from the environment, and their prominence helps us find our way.
Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, and Jason Riis began by analyzing eight and a half years of Google searches. They discovered that searches for the word “diet” always soared on January 1—by about 80 percent more than on a typical day. However, searches also spiked at the start of every calendar cycle—the first day of every month and the first day of every week. Searches even climbed 10 percent on the first day after a federal holiday. Something about days that represented “firsts” switched on people’s motivation.
The researchers found a similar pattern at the gym. As with the Google searches, gym visits increased “at the start of each new week, month, and year.” But those weren’t the only dates that got students out of the dorm and onto a treadmill. Undergraduates “exercised more both at the star of a new semester . . . and on the first day after a school break.” They also hit the gym more immediately after a birthday—with one glaring exception: “Students turning 21 tend to decrease their gym activity following their birthday
People were using them to “demarcate the passage of time,” to end one period and begin another with a clean slate. Dai, Milkman, and Riis called this phenomenon the “fresh start effect.”
To establish a fresh start, people used two types of temporal landmarks— social and personal. The social landmarks were those that everyone shared: Mondays, the beginning of a new month, national holidays. The personal ones were unique to the individual: birthdays, anniversaries, job changes. But whether social or personal, these time markers served two purposes.
First, they allowed people to open “new mental accounts” in the same way that a business closes the books at the end of one fiscal year and opens a fresh ledger for the new year. This new period offers a chance to start again by relegating our old selves to the past. In January advertisers often use the phrase “New Year, New You.” When we apply temporal landmarks, that’s what’s going on in our heads. Old Me never exercised. But New Me, reborn on the first day back on New Year.
The second purpose of these time markers is to shake us out of the tree so we can glimpse the forest. “Temporal landmarks interrupt attention to day-to-day minutiae, causing people to take a big picture view of their lives and thus focus on achieving their goals.” Think about those spatial landmarks again. You might drive for miles and barely notice your surroundings. But that Petrol Station on the corner makes you pay attention. It’s the same with fresh start dates.
EIGHTY-SIX DAYS IN THE YEAR WHEN YOU CAN MAKE A FRESH START
You’ve read about temporal landmarks and how we can use them to fashion fresh starts. To help you on that quest for an ideal day to begin with that diet or starting a new habit, here are few that are especially effective for making a fresh start:
• The first day of the month
• The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter
• The day of an important religious holiday—for example, Diwali, Ganpati, Dussehra, Eid al-Fitr.
• Your birthday
• A loved one’s birthday
• The first day back from vacation
• The anniversary of your wedding, first date.
• The anniversary of the day you started your job, the day you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school or university
MIDPOINT: - SPARK Vs Slump
When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood.
—MARGARET ATWOOD, ALIAS GRACE
Our lives rarely follow a clear and straight path. More often, they’re a beginnings, middles, and ends. We often remember beginnings. (Can you picture your first day at job?) Endings also stand out. (Where were you when you heard that a loved one had died?) But middles are muddy.
Yet the science of timing is revealing that midpoints have powerful. Sometimes hitting the midpoint stalls our progress other times, middles stir and stimulate; reaching the midpoint awakens our motivation and propels us onto a more promising path.
Author calls these two effects the “slump” and the “spark.”
In 2010 four social scientists, including Nobel Prize–winning economist Angus Deaton, took what they called “a snapshot of the age distribution of well-being in the United States.” The team asked 340,000 interviewees to imagine themselves on a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. If the top step represented their best possible life, and the bottom the worst possible one, what step were they standing on now? (The question was a more artful way of asking, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how happy are you?”) The results, even controlling for income and demographics, were shaped like a shallow U, as you can see in the chart. People in their twenties and thirties were reasonably happy, people in their forties and early fifties less so, and people from about fifty-five onward happier once again.
Study after study across an astonishing range of socioeconomic, demographic, and life circumstances have reached the same conclusion: Happiness climbs high early in adulthood but begins to slide downward in the late thirties and early forties, dipping to a low in the fifties.
Gersick studied one group of business students given eleven days to analyze a case and prepare an explanatory paper. The teammates dickered and bickered at first and resisted outside advice. But on day six of their work—the precise midpoint of their project—the issue of timing parachuted into the conversation. “We’re very short on time,” warned one member. Shortly after that comment, the group abandoned its unpromising initial approach and generated a revised strategy that it pursued to the end. At the halfway mark in this team and the others, Gersick wrote, members felt “a new sense of urgency.”
Call it the “uh-oh effect.”
Think of midpoints as a psychological alarm clock. They’re effective only when we set the alarm, when we can hear its annoying bleep, bleep, bleep go off, and when we don’t hit the snooze button. But with midpoints, as with alarm clocks, the most motivating wake-up call is one that comes when you’re running slightly behind.
WAYS TO COMBAT A MIDLIFE SLUMP
1. Don’t break the chain (the Seinfeld technique).
Jerry Seinfeld makes a habit of writing every day. Not just the days when he feels inspired—every single damn day. To maintain focus, he prints a calendar with all 365 days of the year. He marks off each day he writes with a big red X. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain,” he told software developer Brad Isaac. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” Imagine feeling the midpoint slump but then looking up at that string of thirty, fifty, or one hundred Xs. You, like Seinfeld, will rise to the occasion.
2. Prioritize your top goals (the Buffett technique).
As legend has it, one day Buffett was talking with his private pilot, who was frustrated that he hadn’t achieved all he’d hoped. Buffett prescribed a three-step remedy.
First, he said, write down your top twenty-five goals for the rest of your life.
Second, look at the list and circle your top five goals, those that are unquestionably your highest priority. That will give you two lists—one with your top five goals, the other with the next twenty.
Third, immediately start planning how to achieve those top five goals. And the other twenty? Get rid of them. Avoid them at all costs. Don’t even look at them until you’ve achieved the top five, which might take a long time.
Doing a few important things well is far more likely to propel you out of the slump than a dozen half-assed and half-finished projects are.
3. Picture one person your work will help.
To our midpoint-motivation murderer’s row of Hemingway and Seinfeld, let’s add Adam Grant, the Wharton professor and author of Originals and Give and Take. When he’s confronted with tough tasks, hemusters motivation by asking himself how what he’s doing will benefit other people. The slump of How can I continue? becomes the spark of How can I help? So if you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project,picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.
If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
Social psychologists Ed O’Brien and Phoebe Ellsworth of the University of Michigan wanted to see how endings shaped people’s judgment. So they packed a bag full of Hershey’s Kisses and headed to a busy area of the Ann Arbor campus. They set up a table and told students they were conducting a taste test of some new varieties of Kisses that contained local ingredients.
Then the research assistant said, “Here is your next chocolate,” gave the participant another candy, and asked her to rate that one. Then the experimenter and her participant did the same thing again for three more chocolates, bringing the total number of candies to five. (The tasters never knew how many total chocolates they would be sampling.)
The crux of the experiment came just before people tasted the fifth chocolate. To half the participants, the research assistant said, “Here is your next chocolate.” But to the other half of the group, she said, “Here is your last chocolate.”
The people informed that the fifth chocolate was the last—that the supposed taste test was now ending—reported liking that chocolate much more than the people who knew it was simply next. In fact, people informed that a chocolate was last liked it significantly more than any other chocolate they’d sampled.
They chose chocolate number five as their favorite chocolate 64 percent of the time (compared with the “next” group, which chose that chocolate as their favorite 22 percent of the time). “Participants who knew they were eating the final chocolate of a taste test enjoyed it more, preferred it to other chocolates, and rated the overall experience as more enjoyable than other participants who thought they were just eating one more chocolate in a series.”
When the workday ends, many of us want to tear away—to pick up children, race home to prepare dinner, or just go to the nearest bar. But the science of endings suggests that instead of fleeing we’re better off reserving the final five minutes of work for a few small deliberate actions that bring the day to a fulfilling close. Begin by taking two or three minutes to write down what you accomplished since the morning. Making progress is the single largest day-to-day motivator on the job. But without tracking our “dones,” we often don’t know whether we’re progressing. Ending the day by recording what you’ve achieved can encode the entire day more positively.
Author- “When I began working on this book, I knew that timing was important, but also that it was inscrutable. At the start of this project, I had no idea of the destination. My goal was to arrive at something resembling the truth, to pin down facts and insights that could help people, including me, work a little smarter and live a little better.
The product of writing—this book—contains more answers than questions. But the process of writing is the opposite. Writing is an act of discovering what you think and what you believe.
I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them.”
TIMING IS EVERYTHING:- Last words of the book
I used to believe that lunch breaks, naps, and taking walks were niceties. Now I believe they’re necessities.
I used to believe that the best way to overcome a bad start at work, at school, or at home was to shake it off and move on. Now I believe the better approach is to start again or start together.
I used to believe that midpoints didn’t matter—mostly because I was oblivious to their very existence. Now I believe that midpoints illustrate something fundamental about how people behave and how the world works.
I used to believe in the value of happy endings. Now I believe that the power of endings rests not in their unmitigated sunniness but in their poignancy and meaning.
I used to believe that synchronizing with others was merely a mechanical process. Now I believe that it requires a sense of belonging, rewards a sense of purpose, and reveals a part of our nature.
I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.
That’s the end of summary and start of new you
Hope you enjoyed the summary and discovered a few new things that you can apply in your daily life. Please share your experiences and let’s strive to live a more optimized life.
All points are taken from the book :-
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
Book by Daniel H. Pink