Book report: When

Hi there,
Alan Feirer here with a book report. It’s been awhile since I have done one, but I just read something great—Daniel Pink’s latest, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.”

I love it. I recommend it. It’s a fairly easy read, and a fairly interesting one. Like a lot of Dan Pink books, like “Drive,” or anything else he’s written, it’s a little bit wonky in the very best sense, in terms of there’s data, there’s research. He does a great job of providing narratives to help it make sense.

In this book, he’s talking about when’s the right timing for things. Whether it’s what time during the day, what time during the lifecycle of a project, what time during the week, what time during your life, and what makes teams sync up or not. Also, thoughts on the way we talk about time and how that can affect things.

Some things in this book are super practical takeaways. I’m looking right now at a page toward the beginning of the book where he talks about four tips for a better morning: 1) Drink a glass of water when you wake up. 2) Don’t drink coffee immediately after you wake up. 3) Get a little bit of sun. Very practical, but there’s some research behind it that has changed the way I consume coffee in the morning that has made a big difference for me.

There are some other things, some philosophical things, that are societal for us, but research doesn’t back it up. Page 65 talks about the best meal, or the most important meal of the day. We think it’s breakfast. Research actually shows it’s lunch. Lunch matters. There are two things that have to happen during lunch for your brain to recover the best. The two ingredients are autonomy and detachment. It’s important to be in control of your lunch and spend some time away from work, and maybe even away from others during your lunch time. That could help you provide some energy for the afternoon.

Another thing that’s interesting is, there’s a lot of societies and a lot of cultures where an afternoon break or an afternoon nap makes sense. Research supports that a short afternoon nap works. The ideal length of a nap is roughly twenty minutes. I’ve always believed in a thirteen minute power nap. He says you can take anywhere between ten and thirty minutes. Then he coins a term called the “Napachino,” where you have some coffee, then take a nap, then go about your business. He says that provides an energy boost, and that’s really true.

Sometimes you wonder in a process—a selection process, an interview process, a pitch process—is it good to go first or good to go last? He actually lists four situations when you should go first, and four situations when you should not go first. For example, if you’re the default choice, you think you’ve probably got this in the bag, it make sense to go last rather than first. Because if you go first, then the novel approaches might upend you. Whereas if you’re the novel choice, don’t go first. Go after the default choice, if you have any choice in the matter yourself.

It’s not depressing; it’s affirming. But research points out that there is such a thing as a mid-life slump, but not a mid-life crisis. Well-being tends to dip close to age 50, but then the optimism is that it increases sort of dramatically throughout the rest of your life. And there’s practical pointers for what to do as you hit those ages in order to not let that affect you as much.

Similar research points out that when we do projects, we tend to cut corners in the middle of the project execution, but not at the end or at beginning of the project. Instead, it makes sense to pay attention to that, and then note when you’re in the mid-point of a project, it’s important to kick it in a bit.

One more insight for you.

It talks about the three things that can link teams better, that cause teams to be really well in sync. It tells some great stories about that. He said that these three things keep rising to the top:
1. Is there a clear boss?
2. Is there a sense of belonging?
3. Do you activate what he calls “the uplift?” Do you find ways to make the team feel good and have good morale about what they’re doing?

Those are just little tiny takeaways from that. Why are ages 29 and 49 the most frequent ages that people run their first marathon? There’s some neat insights from that. People don’t always make their best decisions in the afternoon, most people, some people do, but most people don’t make their best decisions in the afternoon. He goes into the reasons why, and then helps you understand what tasks you should do in the morning and which you should reserve for the afternoon to take advantage of when we are in our peak sense of timing.

I recommend “When” by Dan Pink, “The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” I’ve already adopted some of this stuff, and I recommend that you do do too. It’s made me more effective, and I think it can help others.

  1. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    Makes me want to rush out and buy a copy. I’ve witnessed you using some of his practical suggestions. Personally, l loved “lunch (which I like to make my largest meal of the day) and not “breakfast” (which I hate to eat) is the most important meal of the day. Always appreciate a book that strikes a note of agreement; makes me more willing to learn and change.

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