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When - Book Review

1 November 2018

Dr. Moria Levy

"When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing" represents a 2018 publication by Daniel Pink, a recognized authority in management, organizational behavior, and work. With four notable books to his credit, all of which have attained the status of New York Times bestsellers, Pink's expertise is evident. The fundamental premise of this book revolves around the significance of time, a factor that is not only essential but pivotal. Despite often being underestimated, its impact extends well beyond the periphery. Drawing from two years of dedicated research, encompassing data collection and developing insights into time and its effects on timing, the book presents its ideas in a highly accessible manner, consistent with Pink's characteristic style.


The book delves into the following main topics:

1. Daily Cycles of Time

2. Appropriate Timing within Activities and Life Phases

3. Harmonizing and Aligning Time


The fact that Daniel Pink's book has attained bestseller status is a testament to its merit and is ample justification for its strong recommendation.


Daily Cycles of Time


Like animals and plants, humans do not maintain a consistent level of cognitive function throughout the day. This phenomenon cannot be solely attributed to fatigue or exposure to light. Even during sleep periods, when individuals and plants are shielded from light, an internal clock plays a role in determining productivity. Furthermore, this internal clock has distinct effects, specifically during sleep hours. These changes are not merely minor adjustments but represent significant output-level shifts.


Optimal hours for executing each task have been identified. Analytical problem-solving and decision-making, for instance, exhibit the highest effectiveness from morning until late afternoon. Engagement during the afternoon could be more productive. Although not reaching its peak levels, productivity rises again during the evening hours. On the contrary, afternoons are more conducive to tasks associated with inspiration and creativity.


Supplementary data unveils the following insights:


-   Variations in these hours exist among individuals, with 65% of the population adhering to the general pattern. The remaining 35% follow the same behavioral cycle but at different times: 14% as early types and 21% as late types (night owls).

-   Apart from genetics, age significantly influences optimal output hours. Younger individuals tend to gravitate towards later output hours, which aligns with their tendency to rise later.

-   Gender impacts this pattern until age 50, with women displaying a greater inclination towards morning productivity.


Irrespective of timing fluctuations, this pattern's overarching structure and the variance between hours remain consistent.


Equally intriguing are the variations in additional personality traits. Morning types generally exhibit greater agreeableness, productivity, persistence, mental stability, and happiness. Conversely, night owls tend to display more open-mindedness, impulsiveness, and a focus on the present moment. They demonstrate heightened creativity and are more likely to achieve higher scores on intelligence tests associated with honors.


Guidance for optimal functioning includes:


-   Recognizing one's chronotype and aligning tasks accordingly during respective hours.

-   Exercising caution during other times (e.g., avoiding late-night driving for early risers).

-   Advocating breaks, with 20-30 minutes of sleep, proving particularly rejuvenating.

-   Suggesting brief rest periods every hour, preferably outdoors and without work-related discussions.

-   Offering additional advice, such as drinking a glass of water in the morning, delaying immediate coffee consumption, seeking exposure to morning sunlight, and considering midday naps.

-   Highlighting that diverse forms of exercise yield greater effectiveness depending on the time of day.


For a more comprehensive understanding, please refer to the book.


Appropriate Timing within Activities and Life Phases


Further, our behaviors change at the commencement, midpoint, and culmination of activities. This shifting behavior has implications for life in general and projects, tasks, and workdays. Its significance extends even to milestones, which artificially establish starting points, midpoints, and conclusions. Beginnings overflow with energy, facilitating smooth progress and rapid advancement. Devising a strategic approach to the initiation phase becomes wise to harness this potential effectively. Beginnings prompt individuals to adopt a holistic perspective and focus on goal achievement. Ensuring that beginnings align with periods of vitality holds paramount importance. For example, commencing the workday in the morning is ideal, while adjusting school start times (as discussed in the previous chapter) can enhance learning, grades, and overall success. Commencements stimulate heightened investment: instances of increased physical training in gyms are observed at the outset of semesters, months, weeks, and even years following a birthday. The significance of beginnings is underscored by research that unveils the substantial impact of initial employment on one's subsequent career trajectory. Economic recession or growth during this phase distinctly influences an individual's later accomplishments compared to similar populations. Identifying opportunities to initiate, whether within the general annual cycle, an individual's process, or work-related cycles, and orchestrating beginnings can prove advantageous. The book offers guidance, encompassing recommendations for embarking on new employment ventures or entering into matrimony.


Navigating the midpoint can present challenges. Research demonstrates its relevance not only to work but also to life in its entirety, with observed declines occurring around ages 18-21 and later around ages 35-50. This phenomenon extends beyond humans to encompass animals like monkeys. A deceleration or even a slump characterizes it. As we cross significant milestones, a tendency toward slowdown becomes evident. Upon reaching what we perceive as the halfway mark, a reaction is triggered. This response might take the form of a dip, although it could also result in an unexpected surge. The midpoint functions as a psychological alarm clock. Paying attention to this phenomenon can serve as one of the most potent tools for motivation. Analysis of sports games reveals that when a team trails by a small margin at halftime, its chances of winning are heightened. The midpoint remains an unavoidable aspect of existence. What is the recommended course of action?


-   Foster awareness.

-   Utilize midpoints for rejuvenation instead of succumbing to decline.

-   Envision a scenario mentally where we are slightly behind, as this can instill renewed vigor.

-   Establish and articulate interim goals, fostering a more profound commitment to their accomplishment.

-   Recognize that there are instances where exercising patience during this period is wise, ultimately leading to emergence from the mid-term slump.


Endings evoke heightened effort. This phenomenon is observed in sports competitions and throughout life (years ending in 9 often trigger increased endeavors). The distinction between beginnings and endings is that while beginnings prompt a surge of energy and motivation based on what has already been achieved, endings energize us to close remaining gaps. Significantly, this is the primary rationale behind establishing project milestones to create more endings and fewer midpoints. Endings hold a more profound impact on our consciousness. They facilitate reflection, documentation, assessment, and remembrance of experiences.

Consequently, they aid in comprehending the broader scope of events and assist us in distinguishing the essential from the trivial (such as friendships in later life). Endings elevate our spirits (hence, it's advisable to share good news after delivering bad news rather than the reverse). They enable a more profound and meaningful understanding.


Recommendations include:


-   Crafting intentional endings: Treating the conclusion of each day and the end of a semester as opportune moments for culmination and elevation.

-   Harnessing the power of endings: Examples encompass concluding vacations or events with something remarkable and finalizing sales with a positive, memorable experience for the buyer.


Harmonizing and Aligning Time




Alongside managing daily activities and allocating time within them, synchronizing time among individuals is paramount, facilitating collaborative work and coordinated scheduling within a team. Success within a group is contingent upon synchronization across three tiers:


a. Managerial Level: Each group should designate a manager who sets the pace, ensures adherence to standards, and promotes collective ideation. Conforming to the manager's guidance and rhythm is crucial. An adept manager facilitates synchronization with external timeframes, aligning internal and external clocks.


b. Team Cohesion: Fostering a sense of belonging to a collective entity. Synchronization with the team's shared objectives nurtures belongingness, enhancing individual satisfaction, personal performance, and overall group efficiency. Consistency, rituals, and interpersonal interactions further bolster synchronization and a sense of unity.


c. Inner Harmony: Aligning with our inner emotions. Harmonizing with our heart's sentiments enhances personal well-being and strengthens the group's collective functionality. Discovering purpose within an activity serves as a means of achieving such synchronization.


Recommendations encompass:


-   Participation in group activities like choirs, running, or yoga.

-   Strengthening connections with the group through prompt email responses, sharing stories highlighting heritage and challenges, establishing group ceremonies, and engaging in collaborative workshops.


Synchronization goes beyond mere technical aspects. It calls for a sense of belonging and, in return, provides a profound purpose, revealing our intrinsic human essence.


In conclusion, the author aptly captures the sentiment:

"I used to think that timing is everything. Now I believe that everything is timing".

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