Book Summary -When (The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing)

Beyond individual implications, Pink demonstrates that timing is a component of how people coordinate with each other in group settings. Synchronicity plays a role in managing projects or complex team interactions. Pink demonstrates that even languages convey elements of time in the way they uniquely express meaning about the past, the present and the future. In doing so, each language reflects how the people who speak it think about history, behave economically or record their “ordinary moments.”

Your biological clock controls your daily rhythms.

Daily rhythms define how most people experience waking life. All living organisms have biological clocks that control their circadian rhythms.The suprachiasmatic nucleus, a cluster in the human brain’s hypothalamus, regulates the body’s temperature fluctuations, controls hormones and helps run sleep cycles. Pink argues that the daily contours of time are similar and predictable from person to person, noting that people don’t all follows the same patterns.

“Hidden patterns” split the day into three sections.

For about 75% of people, the hidden pattern of each day manifests in three stages: “peak, trough and rebound.” For others, the order may reverse.Your chronotype, or personal circadian rhythm, defines how you live out this pattern. To identify your chronotype, check the early chapters in Pink’s “Time Hacker’s Handbook” sections. He explains that a person’s “positive affect” – shown through emotions like alertness, confidence and enthusiasm –indicates his or her peak time. This level of engagement tends to appear in the morning, plummet during the afternoon trough and rebound as evening approaches. Feelings of happiness, warmth and enjoyment follow these patterns. Conversely, emotions like anger and guilt indicate a“negative affect.” When your alertness and energy fall, so do your abilities to analyze, focus and constrain inhibitions. Pink draws on research showing that bad timing can cause a performance dip comparable to drinking alcohol at the legal limit.

You need to take breaks.

The afternoon trough typically occurs about seven hours after waking.Pink argues that the trough is so dangerous it can turn your afternoon into the Bermuda Triangle of each day. He advises taking “vigilance breaks” and “restorative breaks.” He says they are safety measures as well as respite. Even seemingly straightforward breaks, like napping or eating a good lunch away from your desk, can provide opportunities to refresh yourself that will boost you mentally and physically. Vigilance breaks provide a pause before you move into a high-stakes moment. For example, in a surgical suite, pausing to work through a pre-op checklist to make sure that everything is correct can help improve care and reduce complications. Restorative breaks are short pauses that help avoid the trough’s dangers, guard against “cognitive fatigue” and improve performance.

Pink doesn’t define a single, perfect break, but he states that“something beats nothing.” That is, being active beats remaining stationary, being with others beats being alone, going outside beats staying indoors, and finding time to detach fully from your current task beats multitasking. Pink advises that when you take a break, take a real one: Don’t answer texts or do anything that relates to work.

“Beginnings” matter.

Pink argues that beginnings play a greater role than most people understand. The quality of a start can affect individual outcomes – how well a day at school goes, how well a career launches and how well systems function. Be awake to the power of each start, and try to make strong beginnings. If a start fails, try to launch a “fresh start.” And when the launch spins out of control, Pink advises working with others to attempt a “group start.”

“Midpoints” matter.

Pink says midpoints provide “powerful, though peculiar, effects” on what people choose to do and how they do it. Reaching the midpoint – of life, of a project, of a school term, a ball game – can stall progress or stimulate it. Midpoints can be alarm clocks that motivate you at moments when you’re behind in your desired progress toward your goals. If you know that your standards may slump in the middle of a project, make preparations to manage the consequences. A midpoint isa signal that you have used half the time allocated for a project – or at midlife, half your lifespan. This marker may provide a healthy injection of energy to revive your motivation and reshape your strategy.

And “endings” matter – particularly happy endings.

Pink shares evidence that people have a strong preference for happy endings. They prefer sequences of events that rise, not fall. People tend to judge events – meals or vacations, for example –by specific moments, particularly at the end, rather than by the entire experience. Being aware of how people “register, rate and recall experiences” has implications for understanding human behavior. Ultimately, endings reveal that the pursuit of meaning is an essential facet of the human condition. “Poignancy,” a complex emotion mixing happiness and sadness, is at the center of each meaningful conclusion. Pink encourages readers to remember that, while endings may obscure your memory or cloud your perceptions, they also can elevate and energize you and move you closer toward a goal.

In the Pink

Daniel Pink always strives to be ahead of the curve of popular opinion and then to generate it. Here, he succeeds. Despite his characteristic habit of using multiple sentences when one would suffice, he raises fascinating conclusions about human nature and patterned human behavior. Pink sought out and presents compelling research to support each of his conclusions. Without venturing into less purely rational territory, like meditation or mindfulness, Pink provides a primer about being more mindful of your body, emotions and mental habits around the clock. His guide works well for those who’d like to improve the flow of their days, projects, work and personal schedules, and for managers who want to boost productivity and workplace satisfaction.