Careful timing is crucial to our well being. When you decide to take a break, visit your doctor or get married can have a very real impact on your life.
In other words, the quality of the decisions we make are closely linked with their timing: the better the timing, the better the outcome.
This is the basic tenet of award-winning author Daniel Pink’s latest book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
In this book Pink shares thesecrets of perfect timing.
Pink says his book is not a how to book, but a when to book.
Pink says we tend to decide when to do things based on gut instinct or intuition but timing is actually a science.
“Across multiple disciplines there is a huge body of research showing us how to make systematically better, evidenced-based decisions about when to do things and it turns out they have a material effect on our well being, on our productivity, on our performance, on our creativity, on our health on many domains of life,” Pink told CBS News.
It’s not just about whether you are a morning or an evening person. It’s also about when you decide to do certain kinds of thinking.
Here’s the thing: different kinds of thinking are better done at different times of the day.
According to Pink, a large number of scientists has found that the day has a hidden pattern: a peak, a trough, and a recovery.
During the peak, which for most people is the morning, we’re better off doing analytic tasks, those that require focus and attention. The trough, which for most of us is during the early to mid-afternoon, is basically only good for doing mundane administrative tasks. And during the recovery, which for most of us is the late afternoon and early evening, we’re at our best when tackling something creative.
Best not to visit the hospital in the afternoon
The trough in the afternoon can actually be dangerous.
In an interview with Quiet Revolution, Pink relates that afternoons can be a dangerous time for health care.
“Anesthesia errors are four times more likely at 3pm than at 9am. Handwashing in hospitals drops considerably during afternoons. Physicians are much more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics. Endoscopists are less thorough during colonoscopies,” said Pink.
Avoid taking tests in the afternoon
Research out of Denmark shows that students who take standardized tests in the afternoon score systematically lower than those who take tests in the morning. The effect is equivalent to missing two weeks of school. Research for the Los Angeles Unified School District shows that elementary school students learn more math when they take the subject in the morning, said Pink.
“We need to take more breaks. Period. What I’ve done myself is, make a daily break list. Each day I schedule two breaks that I’m going to take during the day.
“We also know from science that breaks are better taken with other people than solo; they’re better taken fully detached rather than semidetached, that is, don’t bring your phone; we’re better off moving during a break and we’re also better off being near nature,” says Pink.
What the scientists are telling us it that if we take these regular 10–15 minute breaks, we’re going to feel better and perform better.
Bottom line: get out of the office, grab a colleague for a walk outside during your break and forget your phone.
Applying the research to teams
There is some really interesting research on teams and how they synchronize things, says Pink.
There’s something about synchronizing with other people that makes us feel good – like participating in a choir or being part of a rowing team.
There’s something fundamentally human about that and we have propensity for it, Pink tells CBS.
He calls choral singing in new kind of exercise.
Choral singing has extraordinary benefits on both the physiological and psychological levels: it’s useful for cancer patients, helps against depression, improves your immune response and boosts your mood, says Pink.
Synchronist activities with kids also bring about amazing results. Afterwards they are a little bit more pro-social, that is, they will play with kids that aren’t like them and they’re more likely to cooperate.
Choirs in schools boost the moods of kids, improve their social and emotional learning and conceivably make them better citizens of the school, remarks Pink.