Did you know timing can be a science?

Have you ever wondered how important the timing of events is? As I was reading When by Daniel Pink, he discusses the science behind the timing of experiences and events. He discusses that when things occur can be as important as what is happening, and helps you to understand when you should be scheduling your time so that you get the best outcomes.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao | Accessed on Unsplash.com

Main impacts

These were the key points that stood out to me:

  1. The power of endings
  2. When can be just as important as what
  3. Breaks are important

Keep reading for more details on each.

The power of endings

Endings tend to be much more memorable than the rest of the experience. You rarely remember experiences as an average of how you felt throughout it, rather you’re more likely to remember an experience based on key moments and/or the ending.

Therefore, endings can significantly impact how you felt about an experience or situation. If the overall experience was either bad or just not great, a good ending can change your memory of the experience to be much more favourable. It’s not just good endings, but poignant or memorable endings can also override a negative feeling from an experience.

Even if the experience is longer and more painful, you’re more likely to judge the experience by the ending. See my post on the book The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath, that talked about an experiment where people showed this bias when having to keep their hand in cold water.

Generally, how the ending makes you feel is how you will judge the rest of that experience. Whether it was a day, a vacation, an employment, or a conversation, the ending can have a huge impact on your memory and feeling of the experience, whether or not you consider it to be a fair judgement.

But you can use this to your advantage! Whenever you are planning something, be mindful of the ending and find ways to make it more memorable or enjoyable.

A tip for a better work day!

Here’s a tip to having better work days. At the end your workday, take a few minutes to reflect on what you did, make a note of what you’ve accomplished and how it went, and maybe even send a short thank you message/email to someone. Taking a moment to reflect on the positive aspects of the day and your accomplishments (small or large), will help to end your day in a positive way and can leave you feeling better about your entire day.

When can be just as important as what

When you do things can be just as powerful as what you choose to do. Which means you should always take into consideration the timing of your schedule, such as big decisions (made by you or someone else), life changes, etc.

There are certain times of the day when we are more likely to pick the easier option, whether or not it’s the right decision. We tend to default to the easiest option. One of the examples in the book was judges deciding if a prisoner should be released on bail, and the study showed that judges were consistently less likely to release prisoners on bail if they were making the decision right before lunch or a break (taking into consideration all other factors).

Another example was talking about when we should, or rather shouldn’t, go to the hospital. Apparently the worst time to go to a hospital is in the afternoon, because that’s when they tend to make the most mistakes. The afternoon is usually at the end of a very long shift, meaning the doctors or nurses have been working long hours and are more likely to make a mistake.

In the book, Daniel also talks about sleep chronotypes, which identify if you’re a morning or evening person, or somewhere in between. Understanding which chronotype you have, will highlight when you will have peak energy levels and help you to plan your activities throughout the day. Some parts of the day are best for deep work, whereas others are better for the less intensive work, but these times differ based on your chronotype.

There are so many interesting details in the book on knowing when to do big life changes, decisions, or even daily routines. In the end, timing is a science, and there’s a lot of information on how to use that timing for the best outcome.

Breaks are important

Taking breaks can make you even more productive. Breaks are important on a daily basis, throughout the workday, and also over longer time frames. A break can help you reset and give you fresh perspective, not to mention help improve your energy levels. All of this allows you to return to your work refreshed.

During the day, it’s important to give yourself a break from focused work. It’s great to have dedicated time for focused work, but don’t forget to break it up with time away from your work. It’s always better if the break also includes movement by stretching, walking around, etc. or other people such as making it social (think water cooler talks).

In the theme of breaks, one of the types that Daniel advocates for are naps. Naps can provide so many benefits, and leaving you feeling so fresh. Just make sure that the naps are not too long, around 20 min or less is ideal. There are also a handful of locations around the world that have naps (siesta and others) built into their culture.

Ideally, you should integrate breaks into your daily routine and long term thinking. Make sure to be strategic and deliberate, by picking the time that works best for you and scheduling your break (otherwise you might not take them).

Final thoughts

This was a really interesting book, with so many useful details. I want to re-read it as I realized I don’t remember all of the details.

There’s so much that affects how we feel and we don’t even realize it. The more we understand the science of timing, the better we can use it to get the best outcomes and have great days.

I like this because it wasn’t another productivity book about how to do THE MOST amount of work in a day. That wasn’t the purpose at all. It was about understanding how to schedule your days (and life) to get the best results. It wasn’t about working more, it was about finding what works best for you and understanding why it works for us.


Here are some useful links:

  • You can buy the book on Amazon here.
  • You can find more information on the book on Goodreads here.
  • You can find information from the author here.
  • Here’s the author’s website here: https://www.danpink.com/

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