a time to every purpose
It’s always a joy to read Daniel Pink’s books. He has a knack for presenting Social Science research in an easy to understand way that makes it applicable to readers’ everyday lives. In his latest book When he picks timing as his topic and concludes: “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.” Let’s take a look at his main findings and see how we can time certain life activities to ensure better, more efficient and productive outcomes.
“A peak, a trough, and a rebound” – beware of early afternoons
Numerous studies show a distinctive pattern in most people’s moods and emotional states throughout the day. Happiness, positivity, and attention are on the rise in the morning, only to take a dip in the afternoon, before they rebound again toward the late afternoon and evening. (One study determined the most unproductive time of day to be 2:55pm.) Understanding of these patterns can have far-reaching repercussions for our daily lives. Some of the studies’ findings are just “nice to know,” but others can mean “life or death”. Knowing that taking a short (no longer than 40 minutes!) nap in the early afternoon can boost your productivity later on – that’s nice to know. But knowing that scheduling a medical procedure, such as surgery, for the afternoon will increase the risk of something going wrong 3- to 4-fold or knowing that juries and judges will evaluate evidence in trials much less rationally in the afternoon – that knowledge can potentially save your life!
Scheduling Your Life for Maximum Benefit
For best results, schedule medical procedures, academic tests, court trials, or important analytical tasks (or math class) for the morning. But, as always, there are exceptions to every good rule. When the task you need to tackle is not an analytical one but one that requires you to have insight or a creative spark, it’s best undertaken during our non-optimal time, the afternoon for most people. For academic schedules, this means that math and science classes are best scheduled early, whereas art and creative writing are best taught later in the day.
According to research, the quintessential midlife crisis is real across genders, countries, and different socioeconomic groups. Numerous studies have shown that well-being and happiness slump in midlife and reach the lowest point at 52.9 years (for American males). Happiness begins to decline in the early 30’s, bottoms out in the early 50’s, and starts a steady climb after that. People frequently report higher well-being in their 70’s than in their younger years. While most explanations have traditionally centered on sociology, explaining that midlife is the phase of the realization of unmet life expectations and the corresponding disappointment, Pink also delves into newer research that alludes to the possibility of there being a biological component to the midlife crisis.
Take a break – the power of naps
Pink calls naps “Zambonis for our brain”. According to research “they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice”. Numerous studies from around the world conducted among different professions show the benefits of naps. For example, a NASA study shows that pilots who napped up to 40 minutes showed a subsequent increase of 34% in reaction time and a twofold increase in alertness. A UC-Berkeley study shows that an afternoon nap expands the brain’s capacity to learn and retain information as well as boosting short-term and associative memory. Nappers were twice as likely to solve a complex problem as non-nappers. The benefits of napping are independent of the amount of sleep people get at night. Even individuals that get enough nightly sleep still benefit from an afternoon nap.
There is much more to this book than naps and midlife crises. Pink also elaborates on different chronotypes, the science of beginnings and endings, and group timing and synchronization. Interspersed with chapters are sections with real-life action points and tips and tricks to take advantage of the research of timing. It’s a fun and educational read with lots of life improvement potential.
If you’d like to discover the science of timing, you may check out When from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
Written by Anne Nowak