When by Daniel Pink – 127
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink * Opening story The year was 1915, Captain William Thomas Turner, a seasoned 58 year old captain heard that U-boats were in the area. He didn’t perform evasive maneuvers or use top speed when approaching port. The Lusitania was struck by a U-boat torpedo and sank. 1200 people perished. We don’t know why the very experienced captain put the ship in harm’s way and in the path of the German sub. The night before that captain didn’t get any sleep, and he was making decisions – analytical decisions, life-and-death decisions – at the exact worst time of day (early afternoon) and without a break. He made tactical errors. • Overview Timing is not an art, it’s really a science, . To further define timing, it’s when you make decisions or choose to do something, it does not mean luck or circumstance. From simple daily decisions: What time of day to hold a shareholders meeting. To the significant: Financial investments, business decisions, when should I abandon a project that isn’t working. Most people make their timing choices by default, not taking into consideration how timing can affect outcome. The Freakonomics guys talk about if and when to quit vs. staying the course – opportunity cost. So sometimes even when you carefully deliberate over these decisions timing should be carefully taken into consideration. If you could choose when to go run an errand, would you choose to do it rush hour or off-peak, during non-rush hours when traffic is light and stores are less crowded? The purpose of this book is to help make timing decisions in a smarter, more evidence-based way. * Circadian rhythm, Daily Timing The concept of peak, trough, and recovery. Chronotype, chronobiology, everyone is on a spectrum. Most creatures on the planet follow a circadian rhythm or some kind of schedule based on time, most commonly on a daily cycle – flowers bloom, animals sleep, people eat. There are longer term cycles such as seasonal, and even longer timelines like career and lifespan. Deciduous Trees And Shrubs add vibrant blooms in spring and summer, colorful foliage in fall and then drop their leaves prior to going dormant in the winter. Research was performed to analyze the emotional content of 500 million tweets generated by 2.4 million Twitter users in 84 countries. Scientists found that there was a change in mood over the course of the day, starting with a peak in the morning, then falling into a trough by mid afternoon, and finishing with a recovery in the early evening. We think that questions of “when” are less important than questions of “what,” “how,” and “who.” We squander our peak. Focusing first on the biological clock, there are three types of people as the author defines them; lark, owl, & third birds. Lark – morning people. Owl – night owls. Third birds – people who are on a sliding scale somewhere in-between. If our biological clock gets skewed we could suffer affects such as jet lag, hunger, or performance variance (mental and physical). During any normal day a person will experience a peak, a trough, and a recovery. During the morning peak we perform analytic work more effectively. This kind of work includes mathematics, precision, and following rules. Most of medical, legal, and engineering work fall into this category. What does one do in the early afternoon trough? Perform administrative stuff like answering emails, menial tasks, and things normally performed on auto-pilot. In the early evening recovery we are better at creative things because we’re in a slightly better mood and we’re less inhibited. Performance in the trough of early afternoon explains the 20 percent of the variance in human performance on cognitive tasks. Our moods and energy also follow the same pattern. Those of us who are strong night owls go in the reverse order where the creative peak is in the morning and the analytical peak is in the early evening. Examples – If you are in court, the disposition of the judge is a lot more lenient in the morning. If a parole hearing was scheduled in the afternoon, you had almost zero chance of winning a parole. However, if the hearing was in the morning or the judges took an afternoon break, their disposition drastically changed, and parole was far more likely. Hand washing in hospitals drops considerably during afternoons. Physicians are much more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics in the afternoons. Endoscopists are less thorough during colonoscopies in the afternoons. Anesthesia errors are four times more likely at 3pm than at 9am. It’s better to have surgery in the morning than the afternoon as studies show significantly less mistakes are made in the morning). Auditions are more successful at the end of the day. In the morning judges are more idealistic, middle auditions are forgotten about, and end of day auditions are most memorable. In an eight-country study of American Idol–like contests, later singers advanced more often, and those who went last had a 10 to 15 percent greater chance of moving on. Research suggests that judges start out idealistic—evaluating contestants against an imaginary goal—but then settle into a less lofty baseline. One exception: election ballots. Voters tend to pick the first name on the list, whether they’re choosing city councillors or prom kings. 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. During shareholder meetings, afternoon calls were more negative, irritable, and combative. Sometimes scheduling requirements and deadlines don’t give us the flexibility to choose when we do what. However there are plenty of opportunities where we can choose when to do more analytical and more creative activities, and when to do brainless administrative tasks like email. • Breaks Human beings are not inexhaustible supplies of energy. We need the recharge and rest a break provides. There is a puritanical tradition where naps and work breaks are looked down upon. Any break is better than no break. The best breaks are those done outside, with physical activity, socially, and not talking about work. Examples of breaks are a short naps, a lunch break. Take 10 minutes. Go outside for a walk without your phone. Professionals take breaks. Amateurs don’t. Breaks are a required part of high performance. The ”nappucino” (coffee and a nap). One Danish study showed that if students took a 20 minute break before a test, their scores were substantially higher. Breaks can improve our decision making. • Midpoint Perspectives Midpoints can create a sense of urgency. The midpoint may be a metric that is universally understood and taken seriously. hour, week, or month long projects provide a midpoint that can generate urgency. The term “midlife crisis” (a term used since 1965) is not accurate, it’s more like a midlife sag—a decrease in well-being. The absolute lowest point of well-being for American men is 52.9 years. U-shape dip in mid life crisis affects humans and apes alike. Mid points can cause us to panic or they can be a slump. It depends on the context. Midpoint of a sports game can be considered the end of the 1st half and share both characteristics of midpoint and ending. * 11th Hour Urgency and Endings 9-enders (ages of 29, 39, 49…) endings energize us Ball games score the most points with time running out on the clock. Cramming for an exam. When we reach an end, we search for meaning. The climax and grand finale in movies happens at the end. Dessert. A study that found that people who were given a gift certificate that expired in three weeks were five times more likely to use it than those given one expiring in two months. Why projects have deadlines. A study that gave two groups of college students a series of Hershey’s Kisses. Scientists asked the students to rate each of five candies, delivered in succession, on a scale. In one group, they were told that each chocolate was the “next one.” In the other group, they were told the final chocolate was the “last one.” “People loved that last chocolate,” Students rated the “last” chocolate much higher than the others. People like an “ending that elevates.” This explains why people prefer to hear bad news before good news • Synchronizing with others Choir singing is the new exercise. There’s something about synchronizing in time with others. People in India who deliver lunches sync with each other with impressive accuracy. • Long term timing in life and career Recessions impact on the luck at getting work after graduation. Timing of decisions seem to be made in a haphazard way with no thought behind it. Stock market investing, start late and get less earned interest. Also examine timing of investors during recessions – younger people have time to recover while those close to retirement do not. • Personal experiences Mardi Gras floats and throwing beads. • Other Precrastinators and procrastinators less creative. Precrastinators uses first good idea and procrastinators uses whatever they can get done in time. Incubation and divergent thinking. Haunakka – Candles sold are exact number needed but there are always candles left over. The ones forgotten about are those in the middle of the holiday.