Book:  When

Author:  Daniel Pink

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Pink, D. (2018). When: the scientific secrets of perfect timing. New York: Riverhead Books.

Three Big Takeaways:

  • Our moods and performance oscillate during the day.  Most of us follow a common pattern: peak/trough/rebound.  Most of us excel at analytic work in the morning and creative work later in the day. (pg. 26)

  • Naps confer two key benefits - they improve cognitive performance and they boost mental and physical health. Naps are like zambonis for our brains - they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches of a typical day. (pg. 66)

  • 85% of employees don’t need rules or policies.  So what if designed our workplace policies for the 85% rather than the 15%?  If you think people in your organization are pre-disposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn’t to create more rules. Maybe the answer is to hire new people.

Other Key Ideas:

  • In terms of happiness, there are “twin peaks” during the day.  Positive feeling climbs in the morning hours until it reaches an “optimal emotional point” around midday. Good mood quickly plummets and stays low throughout the afternoon only to rise again in the early evening. (pg. 14)

  • Leaders should consider that critical managerial decisions and negotiations should be conducted earlier in the day.  Ample evidence has shown that adults perform their best on analytic (logical) tasks during the morning. (pg. 19)

  • Students score higher in the mornings than in the afternoons. Indeed, for every hour later in the day the tests were administered, scores fell a little more. (pg. 23)

  • All of us experience the day in three stages - a peak, a trough, and a rebound.  About three-quarters of us experience the day in that order. But one in four people, those whose genes or age make them night owls, experience the day in something closer to the reverse order - recovery, trough, peak. (pg. 32)

  • Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangles of our days. Consider colonoscopies - now that I’ve read the research, I would never accept an appointment that wasn’t before noon. Doctors are less likely to perform an effective colonoscopy in the afternoon, and doctors are significantly less likely even to fully complete a colonoscopy when they perform it in the afternoon. (pg. 53)

  • The typical worker reaches the most unproductive moment of the day at 2:55 p.m. - when we enter this region of the day, we often lose our bearings.  (pg. 55)

  • When students had a twenty- to thirty-minute break before a test, their scores increased.  Scores go down after noon, but they actually go up by a higher amount after breaks. (pg. 57)

  • 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.  Short breaks from a task help us maintain focus, and reactivate our commitment to a goal. (pg. 60)

  • Hourly, five-minute walking breaks can boost energy levels, sharpen focus, and improve mood throughout the day.  Short walking breaks in the workplace also increase motivation and concentration and enhance creativity. (pg. 61)

  • Relaxation breaks (stretching and daydreaming) eased stress and boosted mood in a way that multitasking breaks did not.  Tech-free breaks also “increase vigor and reduce emotional exhaustion.” (pg. 62)

  • Lunch breaks offer and important recovery setting to promote occupational health and well-being - particularly for employees in cognitively and emotionally demanding jobs.  The most powerful lunch breaks have two key ingredients - autonomy and detachment. (pg. 65)

  • An afternoon nap expands the brain’s capacity to learn.  Nappers easily outperform non-nappers on their ability to retain information.  The overall benefits of napping to our brain power are massive, especially the older we get. (pg. 67)

  • 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. And with naps of more than an hour, cognitive functioning drops for even longer before it reaches a pre-nap state and eventually turns positive. (pg. 68)

  • Since caffeine takes about twenty-five minutes to enter the bloodstream, the ideal technique for staving off sleepiness and increasing performance is drinking a cup of coffee before a twenty-minute nap. (pg. 69)

  • Some 40% of schools have eliminated recess or combined it with lunch.  However, years of research show that recess benefits schoolchildren in just about every realm of their lives. (pg. 82)

  • Finding it hard to write or finish a project?  Consider ending your day partway through the task - this sense of incompletion should light a midpoint spark that will help you begin the following day with immediate momentum.  This is called the Zeigarnik effect, our tendency to remember unfinished tasks better than finished ones. (pg. 138)

  • The “peak end rule” - the rule that says when when we remember an event we assign the greatest weight to its most intense moment (the peak) and how it culminates (the end). We typically downplay how long an episode lasts, and magnify what happens at the end. (pg. 154)

  • At the end of the day take 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. (pg. 172)

  • Exercise is one of the few activities in life that is indisputably good for us - an undertaking that that extends enormous benefits but extracts few costs.  Anyone who examines the science on exercise reaches the same conclusion - people would be silly not to exercise. (pg. 195)

  • Email response time is the single best predictor of whether employees are satisfied with their boss.  The longer it takes for a boss to respond to their emails, the less satisfied people are with their leader. (pg. 208)

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.