Dan Pink on When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

April 4, 2018 David Witt

How do you decide when to take on a new task or a new job? Could we thrive with a little bit more intentional thought? According to best-selling business author Dan Pink, there is a large and growing amount of research that gives clear guidance on how to get systematically better and smarter about making decisions on when to do things.

“We all experience Peak moments, Trough moments, and Recovery moments.  The key is to schedule the right type of work for each of these times. Our cognitive abilities change throughout the day. Do your analytic work during the Peak, administrative work during the Trough, and creative work during Recovery.”

Simply following this pattern can result in a 20 percent improvement in how people perform a job, says Pink.

Peak times should be used for analytic tasks and those that require head-down, focused attention and energy—for example, writing a report or analyzing data.  Save Trough time—which usually occurs later in the day—for routine administrative work.

“That’s when we should answer routine emails, fill out expense reports, or do the kinds of things that don’t require a heavy cognitive load,” says Pink.

Recovery time is best suited for certain types of insight work or brainstorming.

“Our mood is higher, but at the same time we tend to be less vigilant.”

Pink also shares insight on research that highlights the importance of taking breaks throughout the day. He offers a couple of best practice guidelines.

  1. Something beats nothing. “Even a one- or two-minute break can restore energy and mental acuity.”
  2. Moving is better than stationary. “Get up and move around—don’t sit at your desk and look at your phone.”
  3. Social beats solo. “Breaks with other people are more replenishing than breaks on our own—even for introverts.”
  4. Outside beats inside. “Nature has incredible replenishing benefits on our mental acuity and on our well-being.”
  5. Fully detached beats semi-detached. “When you take a break, leave your phone at your desk.”

Finally, Pink shares timing recommendations for starting new projects and keeping teams performing at their best, and also discusses how to be intentional when setting up the beginning, midpoint, and ending of projects.

Be sure to listen through to the very end of the session, where Ken Blanchard shares his key takeaways from the interview!

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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