“When: Scientific Secrets of perfect timing” by Daniel H. Pink, is a fascinating and enjoyable book about the role time plays in our lives. It answers questions like “is there a best time to do something?”, “When should I give bad news?” and “how can I enjoy my time more?” Without further adieu, here are 14 things I learned from this book:
1) People have good and bad times each day.
During the day, in the course of one’s natural circadian rhythm, people have times where they’re happier and things go smoothly (usually earlier in the day with a mid-day slump). Also, most people’s circadian rhythms are roughly similar, so planning customer-facing meetings or deep work in the afternoon will put you at a disadvantage, as opposed to the morning.
2) Teams just slightly behind at half-time were more likely to win the game.
This generally goes across sports, but the main study the book cited was in American football. Teams that were significantly behind at half time were likely to get demoralized, on top of the inherent disadvantage of being behind. Teams slightly ahead at half time were more likely to let down their guard, and being slightly behind when you still have the time to make it up is a powerful motivating tool.
3) People starting the job market in a recession could be making less until their 40’s.
This seems to apply even if the recession is fairly short, and seems to be tied to feedback loops. People slower to get hired when starting are slower to get the promotion, and have less work experience by the time they’re 40. For those of us starting work in a recession, the only solution I can think of is — hustle.
4) Marathoners are more likely to start at ages 29,39,49 than at 28,38,48.
Endings are a big deal to people. Turns out the ending of a decade is no different. The fact that many people choose to end a decade with a great accomplishment should be very encouraging.
5) Group projects start slow then shift methods and gears at the half-way point.
Productivity is punctuated equilibrium.
6) People remember endings, so tell the bad news first and try to end encounters and vacations on a high note.
Many people were asked “when someone has good news and bad news, which order do you prefer to hear them?” they all said they prefer to hear the bad news first. “I’ve got good news and bad news” always ends up putting more emphasis on the negative. Nobody wants that.
7) People who make time capsules for themselves appreciated it more than they thought they would.
This fact surprised me. I’m generally not one for mementos. Perhaps I should work on that.
8) Nostalgia/reminiscence is healthy and gives meaning to the present.
The book cited studies tying amount of time reminiscing with overall life satisfaction and health. I’m starting to wonder if those are controlled by age (although if they didn’t, I would definitely expect the people who reminisce more to be in worse health, as the 80 year-old has much to reminisce about but not so much the adolescent).
9) People who used language to identify with their future (or saw an aged picture of themselves) were more likely to save.
One example of using language to identify with the future is Chinese. Since Chinese lacks flexion, they generally use the same words for the future and the present (“I do the laundry” = “I will do the laundry”) and expect the listener to figure it out via context. If anyone reading this speaks Chinese, please correct me if I’m wrong.
10) A sense of awe can slow down time and broaden one’s perspective.
Enjoy your sunsets.
11) A slump in the 40’s is normal for everyone.
I’m in my 20’s so… People who are old enough to be my parents, tell me what it’s like!
12) Warren Buffet’s advice: Make a list of your top 25 goals. Of those pick 5 absolute top priorities, and focus on those exclusively. Actively avoid the other 20 until your top 5 have been met.
This is the advice Buffet gave to one of his employees who was himself struggling with depression in his 40’s. This is something I’m starting to work on myself, as I have a long list of goals and a fixed amount of time each day to pursue them.
13) Stopping a writing session in the middle of a sentence can make it easier when you return to pick it up.
I tried this once. I think it worked.
14) Doing a little extra to end the day or workday on a high note can be highly valuable, maybe write down what you accomplished so you remember it.
This is something I could work on. I’m constantly worrying about making forward progress in my life, but I don’t write down what I did on the days when I did do something. If I did that more often, I might relax.