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When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

At what time should you:

- Plan a serious conversation with your parents or children?

- Make an important financial decision?

- Exercise?

You can find these answers in Daniel Pink's new book, When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Often, we make decisions based on the factors of what, who, where and why; but, the all important factor of when is not given as much consideration. Daniel Pink will convince you that timing matters!

Derived from extensive research of over 700 multidisciplinary scientific studies; Pink offers data, fascinating stories and your own personal time hacks - "tools, exercises and tips to put the insights into action".

"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing."

~ Miles Davis


Read to Discover

Hidden Patterns in the Everyday

The Power of Breaks

The Art of Good Beginnings, Midpoints and Endings

Pervasive Thoughts About Time


Hidden Patterns in the Everyday

There is a general pattern of activity, no matter where you live, that most humans follow. Positive feelings rise in the morning, plummet in the afternon and climb back up again in the early evening. The following graph shows relative times.

For most of us, sharp analytic capacities peak around noon. If you are doing your taxes, making financial decisions or any problem that requires analytic concentration, it's best to do it in the morning.

Conversely, problems which require creativity and less inhibition are best tackled when we are not at our peak alertness.

There is a general pattern of a rise, a trough and a recovery for most people during each day. Alertness and energy levels rise in the morning, peak about noon then recover in the evening. This is also true with our feelings of warmth for others. Most people follow this general pattern of rise, dip and recovery.

However, one out of four people have a different type of inner clock. They are called late chronotypes or owls. These are people who do not like mornings and peak in the late afternoon or early evening. Owls experience the day in reverse order. If you are an owl and writing as suggested in our core practices, you probably prefer to write at night.

Determine your own chronotype.

Think about your behavior on a day when you have no obligations.

1. What time do you go to sleep?

2. What time do you usually wake up?

3. Find the middle of those two times.

For example, I fall asleep around 10:00 p.m. and wake up at 6:00 a.m. My midpoint is 2:00 a.m. That makes me a lark according to this graph.

Most of us, Pink says, are third birds.

Want to dig deeper?

Complete a 5 to 10 minute questionnaire to determine your Circadian Rhythym Type by clicking here.

I discovered the perfect bedtime for me is 10:15 and that my melatonin level starts to rise around 8:15 p.m.

What's yours?

Useful tips for creating daily routines:


Morning Exercise is best for losing weight, boosting mood, maintaining a consistent routine and building strength.

Late Afternoon Exercise is best for preventing injury, performing at your top level and overall enjoyment of the exercise

Morning Routine:

1. Drink a glass of water when you wake up.

2. Don't drink coffee immediately after you wake up. Wait an hour.

3. Get out in the morning sun.

The Power of Breaks

Daniel Pink says he used to think that taking breaks were a waste of time. Research convinced him otherwise. There is power in restorative breaks. Being a regular nap taker, I especially appreciated the section on naps.

"The overall power of napping to our brainpower is massive, especially the older we get."

Napping increases "flow", a powerful source of enagagement and creativity. A large study in Greece found that people who napped were as much as 37% less likely as others to die from heart disease, "an effect of the same order of magnitude as taking an aspirin or exercising every day."

Take a Nappacino!

Here's my favorite advice concerning naps. Pink makes a case for taking a Napacinno! An optimum nap is around 25 minutes. If you drink a cup of coffee immediately before napping; the coffee, which takes about 25 minutes to hit your digestive system, kicks in when you are waking up. It helps to avert the groggy post nap feeling. As for nap time, you may feel the need for a nap around seven hours after waking up for the day. The Mayo Clinic says between 2 and 3 p.m. is usually the best time.

Listen to Pink's interview on NPR, All Things Considered to learn more about a Nappacino here.

Meditation is considered by research to be one of the most effective breaks of all. I always recommend the Smile Meditation by Tara Brach to my mindfulness students. Click here for Tara Brach's meditation. Daniel Pink list the UCLA site for free meditations. Click here for free guided meditations in both English and Spanish.

Also supported by research is the effectiveness of controlled breathing breaks. There are three on this site. You may want to take a break around 2:55 p.m., which is shown to be the most unproductive moment of the day.

Pink's Guiding Principles for Breaks:

1. Something beats nothing - micro breaks are better than no breaks

2. Moving beats sitting

3. Social beats solo

4. Outside beats inside

5. Fully detached beats semidetached.

Breakfast and Lunch Breaks:

Breakfast - Evidence to support the importance of eating breakfast is unclear.

Lunch - Lunch breaks are important to health and well being. If you are in a work setting, the suggestion is to get away from your work site.

"Lunch is the most important meal of the day."

Menu for Breaks

The author offers a menu of break choices in his time hacks. You can find them on this page.

The Art of Good Beginnings, Midpoints and Endings


In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki wrote, "It is the open mind with the ability to see things always as fresh and new that is needed in all aspects of life. Pink writes about temporal landmarks that people use to create new beginnings. He lists 86 days in the year when people make fresh starts. Examples are the first day of the month, Mondays, the day after vacation and more. Any day can be a beginning if you make it meaningful.

Middle Points

A study shows that people in their twenties and thirties were mostly happy, people in their forties and early fifties, less so, and people from about 55 and up feel happy once again. In the studies, this U curve held true globally. Something happens in midlife. In youth are expectations are too high, in older age, they're too low.

When we reach a midpoint;

"Sometimes we slump, but other times we jump."

Use midpoints to wake up!

Time Hacks for Middle Points

End in the middle - we tend to remember unfinished tasks

Don't break the chain - ie. write everyday, mark each day off your calendar to create a chain

Picture one person your work will help.


What happens when you feel -

"like the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you 'I'm not screwing around, use the gifts you were given."

Use Warren Buffett's advice:

1. Prioritize your top goals - (This is taken from Warren Buffet.) Write down your top 25 goals for the rest of your life.

2. Look at the list and circle your top five goals, your highest priorities.

(Now you will have two lists - one with your top five goals, the other with the next twenty.)

3. Immediately start planning how to achieve those top five goals, get rid of the other twenty. Do important things first.

When people grow older, they take time more seriously. "They start to remove friends with whom interactions are less emotionally meaningful." Their focus is on the present. Carstensen, a researcher who wrote a paper in 1999 entitled, "Taking Time Seriously", found these results:

"When time is constrained and limited . . . People pursue different goals - emotional satisfaction, an appreciation for life, a sense of meaning."

Pervasive Thoughts About Time

Time is the most common noun in the English language according to Oxford University Press reseachers. Its pervasive nature shapes our language and thoughts. Pink writes that we think in tenses especially when we are thinking about our own lives.

The Past - Nostalgia

Nostalgia was once thought to be detrimental to our health, but research shows that its useful in understanding ourselves. "It makes the present meaningful."

Check out the Constantly Curiously short about nostalgia here.

The Present and Future

Researchers make a case for one of my core practices, journaling. "By recording ordinary moments today, "one can make the present a 'present' for the future."


Another of my suggested practices is to stay open to awe. Here's why it's important.

"A unique study of wonder or awe describes a positive characteristic: vastness or the idea of something bigger than ourselves."

"When we experience awe, time slows down, expands and we feel like we have more of it. It brings us into the present moment with great satisfaction."


Pink provides an interesting conclusion about all of the time studies.

"The path to meaning isn't to live in the present. It is to integrate our perspectives on time into a coherent whole, one that helps us comprehend who we are and why we're here."

You can listen to his interview on NPR here.

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