When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 0525589333

Related: Drive, To Sell is Human


Pink’s latest book is all about the science of timing, and what scientific studies have shown in terms of how to time our days, and our lives.  It’s concise, and relevant to everyone.

One of the best parts about this book is how actionable the content is - he presents the science and studies, and then provides a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” for each chapter with resources on how to apply the lessons to your own life.

Highly recommend the book, and I’ll be making some changes to my own life using the content I learned here.

Favourite Quotes

  • The product of writing—this book—contains more answers than questions. But the process of writing is the opposite. Writing is an act of discovering what you think and what you believe.
  • I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them.
  • I used to believe that lunch breaks, naps, and taking walks were niceties. Now I believe they’re necessities.
  • I used to believe that the best way to overcome a bad start at work, at school, or at home was to shake it off and move on. Now I believe the better approach is to start again or start together.
  • I used to believe that midpoints didn’t matter—mostly because I was oblivious to their very existence. Now I believe that midpoints illustrate something fundamental about how people behave and how the world works.
  • I used to believe in the value of happy endings. Now I believe that the power of endings rests not in their unmitigated sunniness but in their poignancy and meaning.
  • I used to believe that synchronizing with others was merely a mechanical process. Now I believe that it requires a sense of belonging, rewards a sense of purpose, and reveals a part of our nature.
  • I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.


Chapter 1: Everyday Patterns

  • Across people’s waking hours, regardless of culture, religion, location on Earth, or profession, there is a consistent pattern.
  • Analytical/logical thinking peaks during late morning.
  • Alertness and energy drops in afternoon.
  • During recovery period, we are good at insight work that requires less inhibition and resolve.
  • Typical pattern: peak, trough, rebound.
  • Your chronotype - when you naturally sleep - will affect the exact time of day where you experience this pattern.
  • Night owls will experience something like the reverse - recovery, trough, peak.
  • For most of us - “third birds” (not night owls or larks), you should do the following:
  • Analytic tasks: early to midmorning.
  • Insight tasks: late afternoon/early evening.
  • Making an impression: morning.
  • Making a decision: early to midmorning.
  • When to exercise:
  • Morning: to lose weight, boost mood, keep your routine, or build strength.
  • Late afternoon/evening: avoid injury, perform best, enjoy the workout more.
  • Tips for a great morning: drink a glass of water, drink coffee 60-90 minutes after waking, get morning sun, schedule talk-therapy for the morning.

Chapter 2: Afternoons

  • Evidence across court judgements, medicine, education and more shows a large drop in human performance in the afternoon.
  • Breaks can mitigate this.
  • Suggested break characteristics: move/walk, do something, be social, go outside, detach completely from work.
  • High performers, its research concludes, work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes.
  • A good lunch break has two characteristics: autonomy and detachment.
  • Naps have a ton of benefits: increases learning capacity, complex problem-solving abilities, short-term memory boost, overall health, etc.
  • The ideal nap is 10-20 minutes, no longer.
  • The best way to nap is to take 200mg caffeine (can be in form of coffee, etc.), and nap for 20 minutes.  Caffeine will kick in approximately 25 minutes after taking, so upon waking you get both the sleep and caffeine boost.
  • If you nap longer, you will wake groggy (“sleep inertia”), and it will take time to recover.
  • Ideal nap time for most is between 2pm and 3pm.
  • Time out and checklists have also been shown to reduce errors in medicine and other areas.
  • Breaks and recess are critical to the best learning environments, and this has been proven over and over. 

Chapter 3: Beginnings

  • Teenagers should be starting school later in the day than younger children; the results range from better test scores to fewer car accidents.
  • Use social (Mondays, new months, holidays, etc.) and personal (birthdays, anniversaries, job changes, etc.) temporal landmarks to create new beginnings.
  • Avoid false starts using “premortems” to plan for disaster/bad outcomes.
  • You should go first when: you’re on a ballot, you’re not the default choice, if there are few competitors, if you’re interviewing for a job and up against strong candidates.
  • You should not go first when: you’re the default choice, if there are many weak competitors, if you’re operating in an uncertain environment, if competition is meager.
  • When should you get married? Between ages 25-32 for minimum divorce rate, after your education, and after you’ve dated for a while (more than a year minimum).

Chapter 4: Midpoints

  • Sometimes midpoints stall us, other times they motivate us (the “slump” and the “spark”).
  • Happiness climbs until early adulthood, slides downward in late thirties/early forties, hits a low in fifties (52.9 years), then climbs later.
  • To counter midpoints: be aware of them, use them to wake up rather than roll over, and imagine you’re behind, but only by a little to push for the end.

Chapter 5: Endings

  • When we remember an event, we assign greatest weight to it’s peak, and it’s end.
  • Give bad news first, then end with good news.
  • Adding a component of sadness to a happy moment adds significance - poignancy is common during endings.
  • Most marriages end during March and August.
  • Four ideas for better endings: end the workday by writing about your accomplishments and plan the next day; do something special at the end of a school year; end a vacation with a bang; think about how you can surprise a customer at the end of their purchase.

Chapter 6: Secrets of Group Timing

  • Groups must synchronize on three levels - to the boss, to the tribe, and to the heart.
  • Boss must be someone or something above and apart from the group to set the pace, maintain standards, and focus the collective mind.
  • Synching to the tribe can happen through codes (chatting & gossiping, feeling of belonging), clothing, and touch.
  • Synching to the heart has many benefits: choral singing boosts endorphins, lowers heart rates, increases pain thresholds and more.
  • Working with others makes it more likely we’ll do good.
  • 7 ideas for synching: sing in a chorus, run together, row crew, dance, join a yoga class, flash mob, cook in tandem.
  • Improv exercises can also help this feeling.

Chapter 7: Final Thoughts

  • Nostalgia delivers good things: sense of belonging and a connection to others.
  • Rediscovering the past has benefits in future.
  • Living a life of meaning doesn’t require “living in the present” but rather integrating perspectives on time into a coherent whole.
  • Lunch breaks, naps, and taking walks are essential.

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