Why Timing Is — Almost — Everything
Author and former vice presidential speechwriter Daniel Pink discusses how the time of day we work on tasks can change outcomes. His latest book, titled "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," came about when he realized he was making all sorts of "when" decisions — like when in the day to exercise, when to work on a specific project, when to answer e-mail — in a haphazard way. He discovered what he called "a mountain of research" across dozens of fields on the question of when should we do things. Big data, in particular, is providing massive amounts of insights into questions of timing. For example, Cornell University researchers recently took 500 million tweets, put them into a program, and measured the emotional level of the words based on time of day. "What they found was a peak in mood in the morning, a crash or trough in the early to mid-afternoon, and a recovery for the rest of the day," Pink noted.

Pink also observed that more organizations are wanting teams to work together instead of having one person on a project. To this end, he found group timing to be an especially interesting issue to explore. "For groups to really synchronize in time," Pink said, "they desperately need a sense of belonging. They need to feel — I'll call it 'synching to the tribe.'" Finally, he discussed the impact of smartphones and other devices and how it is becoming increasingly difficult for human beings to become detached even for just a short while. He urges individuals to implement a daily schedule in which time to be detached is part of the "must-do" list. He's not talking about hours, but periodic 10- or 15-minute breaks. Take a walk or grab a snack. And, by all means, leave the phone at your desk.
Knowledge@Wharton (02/28/18)
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