Daniel Pink: The Science of Perfect Timing | E50
#50: The Science of Perfect Timing with Daniel Pink
Want to level up your creative skills? Skillshare has thousands of courses on graphic design, marketing, audio production, creative writing and more! Get get 2 months of unlimited access to all courses when you sign up at skillshare.com/yap Start paying attention to WHEN and reap the benefits of perfect timing! This week Hala yaps with Daniel Pink, author of 4 NYT best-sellers, former speech writer for Al Gore and tv host. This episode takes a deep dive on his book “WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” Stay tuned in to learn how different times of the day impacts your productivity, how to get over your afternoon slumps and how to effectively use beginnings, midpoints and endings to accelerate your success.
#50: The Science of Perfect Timing with Daniel Pink
Hala Taha: [00:00:00] Hey there, young and profiters. If you value our content, please take a moment to subscribe to this channel and write us a review or comment on your favorite platform. Thanks in advance.
You're listening to young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn and profit. I'm your host, Hala Taha.
And today we're speaking with Daniel Pink. Daniel has a wide range of accomplishments. He's written six books, including four New York times bestsellers. He was the host and producer of the national geographic TV series, crowd control. And he was the chief speech writer for vice president Al Gore, back in the nineties. Today, we're going to deep dive
on his book when the scientific secrets of perfect timing. Stay tuned to learn how different times of the day impact our productivity, how to get over your afternoon slumps and get a better understanding of time in a broader sense, and how to effectively use beginnings, midpoints, and endings to accelerate your success.
Hey Dan. Thanks for joining
[00:01:00] young and profiting podcast.
Daniel Pink: I'm glad to be here with you, Hala.
Hala Taha: So we are very excited to have you on the show. You are an expert on so many topics from motivation to perfect timing, and you have such a cool and unique background story that I would love to better understand. From doing our research,
I see that you were a young man who went off to law school, and then you decided that wasn't for you. And then you also had a stint in politics, writing speeches for people like Al Gore. And then you also decided that wasn't for you. You became a writer and you achieve massive success. You have 6 books under your belt.
Four of them are best sellers and you've even hosted and produced your own TV show along the way. So help me better understand your story. Walk us through your professional journey thus far and how you found your calling.
Daniel Pink: You pretty much summarize it, Hala. I'll derive a lesson from it. If there is one first and then I can talk in more detail, if you're interested. I think the lesson from it that people eventually realized, but don't realize when they're younger, is that. The path to doing
[00:02:00] things in your life. The course of one's life is rarely linear. It's rarely predictable.
Hala Taha: Yeah. And it's interesting because a theme that's popping up interview after interview, after I've talked to so many successful people on my podcast is this idea of talent stacking.
And this was coined by a previous guest I had on my show, his name is Scott Adams. He's the creator of the Dilbert comic. And the idea is to get as much experience as you can. So you can stack skills together and make an offering that really stands out and you don't necessarily need to be the best at a certain skill, but rather be good at several different things that you can layer on together to be unique and successful and stand out.
So how do you think that all these different experiences that you had that didn't quite work out helped you become the successful author and speaker that you are today?
Daniel Pink: On a couple of dimensions, one of the things that nobody ever tells us is the importance of figuring out. What you don't want to do and what you're not good at.
I think that a
[00:03:00] lot of people have been fed some nonsense that, oh, you can be good at anything. You're like, you're so multitalented, and the truth of the matter is that most people and certainly me, most things I'm not very good at. I don't do that very well and I don't enjoy them. And that ends up being a really important thing to find out, if figuring out what to do.
So for me, for instance, I went to law school basically through default. Risk averse had good grades and was interested in that broader realm. And I realized pretty quickly that practicing law. Once I've realized what lawyers actually did, it's I suck at that and I don't like it. So I don't want to spend the next X years doing that.
And so that was really helpful. Then I ended up one of three people in my law school class who graduated unemployed. I had never practiced law. I never clerked for a judge. Never did anything like that because I realized that, Hey, this is really not for me. So I decided to work in politics because that was something that I was keenly interested in.
I became a speech writer in a very haphazard way. I didn't set out to do it. I just fell into it in some
[00:04:00] way. And that was something I was much better at than practicing law. But at the same time, I looked at the work itself and the environment I was in and said, you know what? This is not for me longterm.
And what happened was in my story was this. And maybe there's a lesson in it for people there is that. If you go back in time to when I was in college, all the way through, into jobs that are very demanding jobs that I had here in Washington, working in politics throughout that period. And we're talking 15 years, maybe the whole time I was quote unquote writing on the side.
So when I was in college, when I was in law school, I was writing articles and columns for newspapers and magazines. Even when I was working, I was writing articles and essays and things for magazines, even in some of the jobs that I had where I couldn't get paid for outside work. Understandably, if you're working in the federal government, I was still doing it.
I was doing it for free. And it finally dawned on me at a certain point that what
[00:05:00] I was doing on the side was what I was good at and what I should be doing. And so for me, the dual lessons of this are one figure out what you're not good at cause that's going to be a very wide universe of things and try to avoid that.
And two, instead of trying to find your passion or think too much, just pay attention to what you do and what you do offers a window into who you are.
Hala Taha: Yeah, I think that's really good advice. And what advice would you give to our listeners who are out there, who are doing something that they're not entirely sure if this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives and who might be too afraid to pivot into the next thing?
Maybe they think they're too old to switch careers.
Daniel Pink: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I think there's two questions embedded in there as I'm hearing it. One of them is not knowing how to pivot in some ways. But the other one is the fear of being quote unquote, too old to do something. And what I've seen in my own life and in observing other people, is that feeling of being too
[00:06:00] old, always is laughable retrospectively.
So if you look at somebody like me, so 20 years ago, I was 30 looking back at age 30, if I had said at age 30, and I probably thought of that age 30. Oh man, I'm too old to X Y or Z. Looking back on that right now is laughable. Like I would laugh at my earlier self and I think that me at 70 would laugh at me today.
Imagine me at 70 looking back at me today saying, oh, I'm too old too. I don't know, write a play. I'm too old to produce a television commercial, whatever. I think 70 year old me would look back on me today and laugh again. So I think that's a way to think about that. Leaving aside things that require massive physical prowess.
All right. So at age 50, the odds of me playing in the national basketball association are remote. But beyond, I think that feeling like you're too old is stupid, so understandable, but misplaced. So the folks that you've got to listen to me 20 years from
[00:07:00] now, looking back on yourself, you will say my God, the idea that I was too old is laughable.
So cut. Fade out. Now. I think the harder question. The question about pivoting. And I think it's really hard. And when things are really hard like that, my advice always is to start small. I think that small experiments, small steps are better than big moves and bold leaps. So what does that mean?
Let's say that you're working as a management consultant and you say, you know what? I actually don't want to be a management consultant for the rest of my life. I'm 33 years old and what I really want to do is maybe become a teacher. Wow. How do I go about doing that? I wouldn't quit your management consulting job and go become a teacher right there.
What I would do is I would do smaller things. I would find five teachers at various levels who, through your own network or one degree of separation, call them up, take them out for coffee and say, what's it really like to be a teacher? Have that
[00:08:00] conversation then maybe what you could do instead of quitting your job is maybe teach an evening course at a college and maybe tutor, maybe teach on a weekend that is take small steps and small experiments in the direction that you think you might want to be headed.
The advantage of that is that it's doable. What's daunting is I'm going to quit my job at Deloitte Accenture or whatever, give up my salary and then go out and look for a teaching job. I think that's actually, most people wouldn't want to do that, but taking the smaller steps and the experiments allow you to help figure out what it is you actually want to do. What I'm saying
isn't exactly revelatory. It's the same thing, it's Hey, let's say I'm a couch potato. And I ultimately want to run a 10 miler. I don't just get out of my couch off of my couch and start running 10 miles. You know what I do? The first thing I do is I take a walk around the block. Then I take a walk around two blocks and then over time I can run that 10 miler.
Hala Taha: Yeah, I think that's really great advice. Let's dip your toes in the water, make sure you actually like the new field that you want to get into before you go full force and make sure
[00:09:00] you're actually good at it. And you can make money so you can sustain yourself. I think that's great advice.
So is there something, as far as an example, And how you pivoted to the TV world and, hosting gigs on TV and production. How did you pivot into that field?
Daniel Pink: You know what? It was very similar kind of story in that I started doing smaller things, so I would maybe be a guest on a show. And then a guest on another show and then a guest on another show.
So that was part of it. And then I like among the people I met there, I would say, Hey, can I call you up and get 15 minutes of advice on what does it mean to make a TV show? What does it mean to produce a TV show? What are the kinds of things that I need to know about that? And so get advice from people, what's it really and I think you said something really interesting how like a moment ago about the importance of understanding, whether you really liked something. And I think that's so important and what we have here in many cases, and I've seen this, I've fallen prey to it myself is that we have this imagined notion of what it's like to be
[00:10:00] X. What it's like to be an accountant. What it's like to be a TV producer, what it's like to be a newspaper reporter. We have these imagined notions of it, but our imagined notions of it are rarely wrong. And so one of the things you have to do is you have to figure out what's the ground truth of being all those kinds of things.
So what does it mean to spend time on a TV show? And one of the things that I learned in doing that, just talking to people about what it's really is that it can be enormously time consuming. It's not very lucrative. So you have to say, okay, am I willing to spend a lot of time and actually not make much money directly and also suffer the opportunity cost?
Doing that rather than something else. And that's a really important factor to consider. So I also started making small videos of my own, but basically as an experiment, as a way to say, what is it like to talk into a camera? How do you tell stories in the video medium, rather than the print medium?
So once again, it's the same general principle, small steps,
[00:11:00] small experience. Get the quick feedback. Iterate again.
Hala Taha: I really liked that. So let's get into our main topic of the show. I really want to get into all your research and insights for guarding time. Originally, I was going to also go into motivation and all these other things that you talk about, but really you have so much good content.
And useful and actionable insights on time that I just want to focus on that. And then maybe we can have you on the show again, to talk about motivation. So your latest book came out this year and it's called when the scientific secrets of perfect timing. So what was your motivation behind writing this book?
Daniel Pink: Frustration more than anything else.
I was frustrated because I was making all kinds of timing decisions in my own life. So I'm talking to you from my office in Washington, DC. My office is a refurbished garage behind my house. So every day I come out here and I make decisions about when to do things. When in the day, should I do my writing? When in the day, should I do my interviews?
When should I exercise more broader episodic questions of timing, akin to what we were talking about before? When
[00:12:00] should I start a new project? When should I start an experiment? When should I abandon experiment? That's not working. And I was making these decisions in a very sloppy way. That was frustrating to me.
I wanted some guidance in how to make these decisions. I looked around for it. It didn't exist. And that got me curious about whether there was any research on this question of timing, because the last several books I'd written had looked at different bodies of social science, to say, what does it tell us about the human condition and how can we apply some of those insights in our work and our personal lives.
And so I started looking around to see if there's any research on timing, and there was a huge amount more than I ever imagined, except it had this peculiar quality to it. It was splattered all over the place. So there was research in social psychology and an economics, but there was also research in
microbiology, there was research in entire field called chronobiology. There was research in linguistics and anthropology and in many of the medical sciences. And it was curious to me is that all
[00:13:00] these disciplines were asking very similar questions, but they weren't talking to each other. So I said, if I can stitch together the findings from these disparate disciplines, maybe what I can do is reveal
some of the evidence-based scientific based ways to make better smarter decisions about when to do things when to do things during the day, when to do things to some extent during the year, when to do things during a life cycle and even things more episodically about, what's the importance of beginnings.
What are the importance of endings? What are the importance of midpoints? How do teams coordinate in time? So out of that frustration turned to curiosity. Curiosity turned to two years of a lot of research and then that in turn, turned into the book.
Hala Taha: Yeah. The book is jam packed with so much useful information.
And it's really funny how we don't really consider the issue as when, as seriously as we take issues of what and really thinking about when we should make certain decisions, what time of day we should do. Certain work is really interesting. So I think my listeners will find a lot of value
[00:14:00] in this. So let's begin with how the different times of day impact our productivity.
You say that time of the day explains 20% of the variance of how people perform and our cognitive abilities change during the 16 hours or so that we're awake. And in your book, you outline three stages of the day everyone goes through, in terms of performance, you say it's peak, trough and recovery.
Could you walk us through these stages and explain what type of work is best suited for each?
Daniel Pink: Great. So you got it exactly right. The big idea here is that our brain power doesn't remain constant over the course of the day. It changes in material ways and the best time to do something it depends on really what you're doing.
Then, so here's what we know. What we're looking for here is something called that's psychologists called the synchrony effect. What'd you want to do is you want to line up your type, your task and your time, your type, your task and your time. Now by type, something called chronotype, which is a term from the field of chronobiology, chrono time biology study of life.
[00:15:00] longstanding field of research spawned a few Nobelists. And what chronotype is a scientific way of talking about, are you a morning person or are you an evening person? And what we know is that about 15% of us naturally wake up early and go to sleep early. We're larks, about 20% of us wake up late, naturally wake up late and go to sleep late.
We're owls. And then about two thirds of us are in the middle, over simple by a tad, but over simplification in the name of clarity is let's think about the world of owls and non owls and not owls. But 80% of us move through the day in precisely the order that you said, peak, trough recovery. Peak early in the day, trough in the middle of the day, recover later in the day.
And so here's what we know, during the peak, which were 80% of us is early in the day. For owls it's much later in the day. For owls, they hit their peak early evening, mid-evening, late evening very different chronotype, different way of moving through the day. During your peak that's when we're most vigilant and
[00:16:00] vigilance means we're able to bat away distractions.
So during the peak, we should be doing what psychologists call our analytic work, which simply means work that requires heads down, focus and attention, writing a report, analyzing data. Carefully, going over the steps of a strategy. That kind of work we'd do better during the peak, which for most of us is early on the day.
Now during the trough, that's mid to late afternoon, that's a terrible time of day for people. There are huge detriments in performance. We see it in studies of students performing on standardized tests. We see it hugely in the healthcare arena, where doctors and nurses perform very differently at that time of day vs
earlier in the day. We see juries making different decisions when they deliberate that time of day versus earlier in the day. So during the trough, we want to do stuff that doesn't require a massive amount of brain power or creative thinking. And so that's, administrative things, answering routine emails, filling out expense reports, et cetera, et cetera.
Then finally the recovery.
[00:17:00] Late in the afternoon, early in the evening. Now for most of us, 80% of us, here's what happens during the recovery. Our mood follows this peak trough recovery pattern. So our mood goes up early plummets in the middle and then recover is later in the day. So late in the day, 80% of us have
rising mood. And we have lower vigilance though. So we're in a good mood, but we're not as vigilant as we were earlier in the day. That is actually a very potent combination for cognitive tasks that require some kind of looseness. So solving non-obvious problems, iterating new ideas. Brainstorming is a good example of that.
You want to be a little bit looser and so to make a long story longer, we should be doing our analytic work during your peak, which for most of us is early in the day. For owls, much later in the day, we should be doing our administrative work during the trough, which is the early to mid afternoon for almost all of us.
[00:18:00] And then we should be doing our insight work as psychologists called iterative looser, creative brainstorming kind of work late in the afternoon and early in the evening.
Hala Taha: Yeah. I really love this because this is something that is totally under our control. We can't really improve how smart we naturally are, but we can control the time we take a test.
And getting an improvement of 20% is really nothing to sneeze on. I really want bring this lesson home to my listener. So you have a very interesting story about how time was the day impacted scores in a Danish school. Could you share that?
Daniel Pink: Yeah, though, that's a great piece of research and it's not only Danish school.
It's a set of multiple schools throughout Denmark and here's the story. It's a piece of research. It was led by Francesca Gino at Harvard university, and here's what happened. So in Denmark students take standardized tests as they do here and the district of Columbia and the rest of the United States. In Denmark students take these standardized tests on computers.
In many jurisdictions here in the states, students are still taking standardized tests using, number two pencils and
[00:19:00] bubble forms and that kind of stuff. In Denmark, students take the nationwide standardized tests on computers. However, the typical Danish school has more students than computers. So on testing day, everybody can't take the test at the same time.
So students are randomly assigned to take the test either early or late. And so Francesca Gino and two Danish researchers, as I said, looked at 2 million Danish test scores to see whether time of day had a role in the students' test scores. And what they found was just remarkable that students who took the test in the afternoon versus the morning had significantly lower scores.
They scored as if they had missed two weeks of school. Yeah, that's an appropriate wow. Because that's crazy when you think about it. So first of all, it calls into question. You have this standardized test or a policy-making tool. And so you have this policy-making tool that says, wait a second, there's this massive difference between early test takers and late test takers. Maybe this tool isn't as effective as we think. What's also alarming about that is
[00:20:00] school or a teacher is going to make a decision about a particular student based on our standardized test scores. What if that student had been randomly assigned to a different time of day, they might've scored differently. And this is part of the point you made earlier Hala about it
just like there's a massive amount of evidence showing our brain power does not remain static as the day unfolds. We perform differently at different times of day and those differences can be significant.
Hala Taha: Yeah. We don't always have control in terms of the time we have to take a test.
When we're an adult, we can work out when we want to do certain work, things like that. But in terms of a student, you don't really have the option. So can you talk about how breaks can counteract this?
Daniel Pink: You're exactly right. That's, the breaks are the answer to this.
And one of the things that we see, and I was surprised by this research. So I have chapter in this book about the hidden pattern of the day, which is what we've been talking about. Peak trough recovery, how our performance varies us is different times of day. And I said I'll write a little bit about breaks.
And as I outlined that, I said, okay, I'll do it like
[00:21:00] maybe two pages about breaks. And I started looking at the research and ended up writing an entire chapter about breaks because the research was so powerful and persuasive. And essentially what we know about breaks is this. We have woefully undervalued them. Breaks are far more important to our performance than we realize.
We should be taking more breaks and we should be taking certain kinds of breaks. And so that ends up being a remedy for some of the downdraft in performance, especially during that trough period. So in the case of the Danish students, it was pretty remarkable. They went back and said, okay, what if we gave these students at 20 to 30 minute break to have a small snack and to run around on the playground before taking the afternoon test, they do that.
Boom scores go back up. Scores were actually higher than in the morning. And so we see this in all kinds of other realms. There's an important study of led by among others, Katy Milkman at university of Pennsylvania, showing a big decline in hand-washing among people who work in
[00:22:00] hospitals during the afternoon, and a remedy for that, a way to get hand-washing back up.
It happened to be a large sample of nurses to give the nurses more breaks and actually breaks with other nurses. And so what we know about breaks at a top level is that, and I've changed. I totally changed my view on this myself is that breaks are part of our performance. They're not a deviation from our performance.
They're part of our performance. They're integral to our performance and we also have evidence of the right kinds of breaks to take what we know. And it's very actionable. We know that with breaks, something is better than nothing. So even a super short break is better than no break at all. We know that
outside is better than inside. So taking a break outside is more restorative than taking a break inside. We know that social is better than solo that breaks with other people are more restorative than breaks on our own. And this is true even for introverts,
[00:23:00] we know that moving is better than stationary, so you're better off
actually being in motion, physically moving rather than being sedentary. And we know that fully detached it's better than semi-detached. So a break has to be a break. It isn't going off for a walk, checking your email. And so when we look at those design principles, exactly, as you're saying, we can exert a little bit more control over things.
So here's an example because of my schedule, I had to talk to you at a suboptimal time today. One o'clock you and I are talking at 1:00 PM Eastern time. That's a suboptimal time for me. So I knew that. And so what did I do before I got on this call? I went on and took a walk. I just took a walk around the block before I went to do this, because I knew that if I just came from doing one hard task where I was fading and then immediately had to talk to you, it wasn't going to be very good for either one of us.
And so simply by taking that small break, it had to be by myself. So I missed out on the social part. Outside in motion, fully detached. I probably, I've slightly more coherent or at least slightly
[00:24:00] less incoherent than I would have been otherwise.
Hala Taha: Yeah. I wish I did that. Cause I'd probably be more on point right now, but as you're talking, the perfect break sounds taking a walk outside with your coworker for 10, 15 minutes and not talking about work.
So all my listeners out there take that as a hint, start to schedule some of those breaks in your day and let your coworker know that I don't want to talk about work. Let's talk about something else because often, when you do take a break with your coworker, you end up just venting about work.
Daniel Pink: I think that's good. And and the thing is you still want to talk to your coworkers, like inadvertent contact, where you're walking into the water fountain to the bathroom or something. Hey, what are you working at? That's all good. But we have to be much more conscious about taking these breaks.
And this is the thing, I'm your hallelujah chorus on that, Hala. In part, because I have the zeal of a convert because I was someone who very rarely took breaks because I thought I would get more done. If I powered through, I also thought in some weird puritanical way that it was morally virtuous not to
[00:25:00] take breaks, that I was a better person somehow for, denying myself.
Alright, and that's it. That's just total nonsense. With breaks are massively important. And if your listeners followed your guidance there, and every day they took, as you say, a 10 or 15 minutes block outside with someone they like, I would be stunned if you didn't see some kind of uptick in performance.
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Yeah. So let's keep on this idea of afternoon slumps to quote you verbatim. Afternoons are the Bermuda triangles of our day across many domains. It represents a danger zone for productivity, ethics, and health. Could you elaborate on this and just show us how bad afternoon slumps can be?
Daniel Pink: Okay, so let's talk about health care because it's just a disaster.
[00:27:00] So I mentioned that we see big declines in hand washing in hospitals during the afternoon, but it goes well beyond there. So what we see is a doctors are far more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics and afternoon appointments versus morning appointments. There was just a paper that came out in the beginning of fall that showed same
pattern with opioids. Doctors, far more likely to prescribe opioids in afternoons versus morning appointments. When you look at things like anesthesie errors are four times more likely at 3:00 PM versus 9:00 AM. If you look at things like colonoscopies doctors find twice as many polyps, or twice as thorough in morning appointments as they are for in afternoon appointments for the exact same population.
So for me, one of the personal takeaways for me and my family from doing this research is that basically nobody in my family is allowed to go to make a discretionary hospital visit or an important doctor appointment in the afternoon period full stop. One of our daughters, she's in college and came
[00:28:00] back for winter break and had to have her.
She had to have her wisdom teeth extracted and Jetta had anesthesia to have her wisdom teeth extracted. And we visibly said, I don't care how inconvenient the particular day of the week is. You are only taking the 8:00 AM appointment because you're undergoing general anesthesia. So again, it's exactly, as you said earlier, Hala, we focus on what, okay.
What procedure needs to get done, but we discount the when are they doing it? And the win matters.
Hala Taha: Yeah. So remember, always go to the doctor in the morning. How about ethics? I thought this was so interesting. The fact that people like are more likely to lie and cheat in the afternoon. Can you talk about that?
Daniel Pink: Yeah, what we see there is interesting. There's some nuance on that one. Let me make a broader point here. So we talked about for most of us, the morning is when we're most vigilant. Okay. We're most vigilant. That is what we're able to do is we're able to bat away distractions. We're less likely to take short cognitive shortcuts of any kind.
So if you think about things like bias is a cognitive shortcut, cheating is a
[00:29:00] cognitive shortcut, right? And so what yes, that people make different moral decisions in the afternoon versus the morning, the researchers who uncovered this, call it the quote unquote morning morality effect. That is because we're more vigilant in the morning.
We're less likely to make ethical lapses. However, the nuance of this is that other research has subsequently followed that up and said, yes, that's true for morning people. And for a lot of people in the middle. But for owls evening types, people who wake up late and go to sleep late. It's the reverse owls are actually more likely to make moral lapses
in the morning than later in the day, because owls are more vigilant later in the day. But again, think of this idea of cognitive shortcuts. There's a very alarming piece of research as an experiment where they did the following. They gave the participants in this experiment, a set of facts. They said you will, participants are a jury.
And they gave people a set of written facts
[00:30:00] about a particular criminal defendant. So we think about two groups, half the groups get a set of facts. The other half the group gets the same set of facts for the first group that the defendant's name is Robert Garner. For the second group, the defendant's name is Roberto Garcia.
So same set of facts. The only thing different is the name of the defendant. When jurors deliberated in the morning, they rendered the same verdict for Garner and Garcia. However, get a new group of participants, same deal, same set of facts, one defendant's name is Robert Garner. The other's defendant's name is Roberto Garcia.
When jurors deliberated in the afternoon, they were more likely to exonerate Garner and convict Garcia on the exact same set up facts. Because people were less vigilant on they're taking these. In in this case, insidious cognitive shortcut of racial and ethnic bias.
Hala Taha: So interesting. And yeah, I was just going to say, it's so interesting and alarming. Speaking of, overcoming these afternoon slumps, you talked about
[00:31:00] breaks before.
Another way to overcome an afternoon slump after reading your material, I learned is napping and it turns out that breaks and napping are not just for kids. They're also very useful for adults and apparently there's a right and a wrong way to nap. For me personally, I feel very groggy when I nap, unless I go for three, four hours.
And then I'm not really sure that actually qualifies as a nap at the end of the day. So what is the right way to nap in your opinion?
Daniel Pink: It's not only my opinion is what the research says and you're spot on Hala, that there is here, once again, I'm a sinner. I never liked napping. I would nap every once in a while I would wake up feeling terrible.
And the reason I discovered is that I was doing it wrong exactly as you say. What the research tells us is that the ideal nap is exceptionally short, between 10 minutes and 20 minutes long, you nap shorter than 10 minutes. You don't get much of a benefit. You nap longer than 10 minutes.
You get a benefit from the nap. But if you stay within that 20 minute range between 10 and 20 minutes, you can get the
[00:32:00] benefits of the nap without the grogginess that comes from napping longer than that. And so there is a sweet spot of 10 to 20 minutes, all kinds of research showing that yeah, it's actually a boost mood or boost mental acuity.
It makes people feel better without the downside of that grogginess, which is known among chronobiologists as sleep inertia.
Hala Taha: Yeah. But 10 to 20 minutes sounds so short. And I noticed you didn't really talk about meditation in your book as an alternative. How do you feel about meditation? Do you feel like it's useful?
Do you do it, and do you think that naps are more beneficial than meditation would be?
Daniel Pink: That's a great question. I have tried meditation in the past. I haven't stuck with it unfortunately. My read of the research on meditation is that it is very good for us. Meditation is powerful. It is not woo. It is a absolutely enhancing of our subjective wellbeing of our mood of our mental sharpness.
No question about it. I'm not sure whether a nap or meditation is one is more valuable than the other.
[00:33:00] I have no idea, but the research to me is overwhelmingly pro meditation.
Hala Taha: Yeah. So tell us about the napoccino. It's the way to 10 X your nap.
Daniel Pink: Once again, the research gives us some ideas on how to actually turbocharge the nap.
The ideal nap is as follows. I've actually started doing this occasionally. So again, I said told you I'm here in my office in Washington, DC. I got a chair right behind me as I'm sitting here. So it's a chair. It's a fairly comfortable chair. I got a little automated. And so I'll sit in that chair and I will set my phone
alarm for 25 minutes. Phone timer for 25 minutes, I will close my eyes. I will put on noise-canceling headphones and get ready to go to sleep. But before that I would chug a cup of coffee. I won't enjoy it. I'll just literally brew a cup of coffee, plop some ice cubes into the mug and just guzzle it, and then I will close my eyes, start my 25 minute countdown timer.
And at this point I can usually fall asleep in say 10 minutes or so.
[00:34:00] And in that sense, like meditation, that is like meditation is easier. The more you do it, I think napping, people get better at napping and being able to fall asleep quickly. So I can fall asleep, let's say I fall asleep in 10 minutes. My alarm goes off in 25 minutes.
That means I've gotten a 15 minute in the middle of that sweet spot, but here's the thing. Remember that cup of coffee that I downed right before turning on my countdown timer, it takes about 25 minutes for caffeine to enter our bloodstream. And so at the moment I'm waking up without that grogginess, without that sleep inertia, I'm getting a second hit of caffeine entering my bloodstream.
And so this technique, as you say, is known as a napoccino.
Hala Taha: Sounds awesome. I can't wait to try that.
Daniel Pink: Definitely tried it a few times. It's surprisingly awesome.
Hala Taha: Okay. So we talked about the first two different stages. Let's move on to the recovery state and the phenomenon of the inspiration paradox, which is the idea that innovation and creativity are the greatest when we are not at our best, in respect to our circadian rhythms.
Tell us about that. What should we be doing during this
[00:35:00] recovery state?
Daniel Pink: So what we know is that we have this peculiar combination. Our mood oscillates. And we see this in a lot of research on people's self-reports of their mood. We see it reflected in big data analysis of people's splitter feeds. So mood goes up, mood declines, and then mood recover.
So again, that's where 80% of us. Late in the day, early in the evening, our mood is back up. However, as I said before, our vigilance is not back up. Our vigilance is actually rather than low. But that combination, that kind of looseness is actually really important. Let me give you an example of this. Maybe it might make more sense.
Let's think about something like brainstorming, let's say you and I are part of a seven person team. That's trying to brainstorm some ideas for, I don't know, a new product or a new marketing campaign or something like that. We've all been in brainstorming sessions where someone tosses out an idea and someone else says that's stupid.
That'll never work. Brainstorming isn't effective if people are hyper vigilant. If they're hyper analytical, what you want is you want some kind of looseness. And so you can impose that looseness in some ways
[00:36:00] with the rules of brainstorming, but you can get even a greater boost. If people's mental states, their cognitive states are looser rather than tighter.
And so doing things like brainstorming then is at that time of day for 80% of us is better. And you see this in some research again, where you give let's take someone like me. All right. So I test on a chronotype scale. I test as not a full fledged lark, but pretty larky. So you give people very common chronotype.
And so you give people like me an analytic problem, and I'm more likely to get it right in the morning and wrong in the late afternoon, okay. You give an owl that same analytic problem. They're more likely to get it wrong in the morning and right later in the afternoon. So now you give me a more creative problem.
All right. A problem where you have to say, come up with 50 unusual uses of a brick or paperclip or something that's about
[00:37:00] iteration. Kind of problems that don't bend to mathematical logic, the sorts of things that require aha moments and insight and divergent thinking. Someone like me is worse at that in the morning, but better, late in the afternoon, because I'm less vigilant.
I'm less tight. I'm focusing more expansively and I'm in a decent mood. So that's the inspiration paradox. So for a lark like me or a larky person, like me, the paradox is that for creative iterative kind of things. I'm actually better off doing them later in the day, rather than earlier in the day.
Hala Taha: From my understanding, it's also better to work out in the evening or work out, seem easier in the evening as well.
Daniel Pink: So that's a great point too. So their virtues of early exercise and later exercise, and it really depends on your goal. So morning exercise is better for something. It seems to be better for weight loss.
In fact, there's something literally that I read this morning, showing that exercising on an empty stomach is actually better for weight loss and conditioning that exercising after eating.
[00:38:00] So morning exercise is better for weight loss. Morning exercise is better for habit formation. And I think that's very pedestrian reason is that people are more likely, I think, to get interrupted at 7:00 AM than at 5:00 PM and then morning exercise are
great virtue of morning exercises that aerobic exercise, but even strength training gives you a pretty significant mood boost, pretty enduring mood boost. And so you exercise early in the day, you're going to get that mood boost for a long time during the day, actually like late in the day, you get your mood boost, but you end up sleeping away
some of it. So that's the virtue of morning exercise. Afternoon exercise is better for other kind of things. So one of them, as you said, is people reported feeling less effortful. My hypothesis is that a lot of this is related to body temperature because our body temperature changes over the course of a day, our body temperature peaks in the late afternoon than in early evening.
So people find it less effortful. I certainly do. It's better for avoiding injury. And I think that's the same reason, similar reason that we're literally more warm up. And also there's
[00:39:00] some interesting improvements in performance late afternoon and early evening. Our lung function is higher. Our hand eye coordination is a little bit better and there's some interesting improvements on speed late in the afternoon and early in the evening.
So really depends on what your goals are.
Hala Taha: Totally. Very cool. So let's move on to time besides just the hours of the day that we should be doing things in a more broader sense. You also talk about beginnings and endings. So for context for my listeners, can you explain what social and personal temporal landmarks are and how we can use them to motivate us and construct better beginnings?
Daniel Pink: Sure. So temporal landmark is as follows. Think about a physical landmark. Is there a physical landmark is something that exist in space that helps you make your way. So if you're trying to find something you're trying to make your way from point a to point B and you're looking for a particular landmark that says, oh, I'm close to point B.
So the same thing happens in time that there are certain dates, that operate as temporal landmarks that help us make our way in particular there's a date
[00:40:00] and this is also research done by Katy Milkman at Penn, whom I mentioned earlier, she found that the certain dates operate as particular kind of temporal landmark.
And that is what she calls fresh start dates. Those are dates where we basically trick ourselves and say, We open up what you can think of metaphorically as a fresh ledger on ourselves. So we say, old me always ate junk food, but new me were born on this day. Opening up a fresh ledger is not going to eat junk food anymore.
And so what this means is that certain dates operate as those temporal landmarks as fresh start dates. So this is why you're more likely to start a behavior change and therefore more likely to sustain it by starting it on a Monday, rather than on the Thursday by starting it on the first of the month, rather than the 11th of the month.
Those are social things we all share. The first of the day of the month is the same for me as it is for you. The 11th day of the month is the same as it is for me as it is for you. But they're also personal temporal landmark. So
[00:41:00] you're better off starting a behavior change, say on the day after your birthday, then one week before your birthday, but that's personal your birthday and my birthday, probably not the same.
And so using these temporal landmark can be a way to essentially reboot and make a fresh start.
Hala Taha: And then how about in a business setting? Like how would you use a temporal landmark to motivate a team or, pivot after something happened?
Daniel Pink: Yeah. So again, you can use something like the beginning of a new quarter to say, our last quarter, wasn't that great, here it is a new quarter day, one of a new quarter let's reboot and start again.
Or you can use some kind of anniversaries, that with this company was founded three years ago on this date. We're starting year four, this is a fresh start date. And so you can use those kind of things to basically, I like to think of it as a reboot. The metaphor that the researchers use is this idea of, as I set up a ledger, if you think about an old fashioned ledger, an old fashioned print ledger, you turn the page and there, before you as a fresh ledger untainted by any of the things that have gone on before
[00:42:00] you can write a new on that fresh ledger.
So you can use again with businesses shared social, first day of the quarter, that those kinds of things first day of the month, but you can also use milestones within the company as well.
Hala Taha: This is all such great advice. So I really hope that everybody out there is absorbing it and will use it in practice.
Let's talk about midpoints. They have very peculiar effects on how we do what we do. Can you talk about the different nuances and how midpoints can both stall us and stimulate us?
Daniel Pink: Yeah, so that's exactly right, midpoints have a dual effect. Sometimes they drag us down. Sometimes they fire us up. And so, sometimes when it gets to the mid point of something where for lose motivation, we're lose interest, our motivation sags.
Other times it has the opposite effect. So if you look at research on wellbeing over the life cycle, what you have is you have a U shaped curve of wellbeing over the life cycle, where people in their twenties and thirties are fairly satisfied. People in their forties become less satisfied, people in their fifties
are at the bottom of that. You, it's not a midlife crisis, but it's a sort of a shallow, are you,
[00:43:00] but then people in their sixties, seventies and eighties are far more happy than they were. So it's shaped like a U. So we see a dip in the middle of all kinds of things, and people's adherence to standards and their willingness to practice certain religious rituals, et cetera, et cetera.
At the same time, what is you see midpoints having, in some cases, a different effect on people, they operate as a spark. There's a researcher named Connie Girsich, who's looked at how teams behave and she found that if you give a team a certain amount of time for a project during the first part of the project, they won't do very much, but there's a moment in the course of the project when they throw off old routines and really get started.
And what she has found in her research is that, happens in an eerie way at the exact temporal midpoint. So you give a team 31 days to do something. They start getting going earnest in a day 16, you give a team 17 days to do something. They start getting going at day nine. And so you also see research in analysis of basketball data, showing that in general, the
[00:44:00] NBA, at least teams that are ahead at halftime are more likely to win the game.
However, the exception to that rule is that teams that are behind by one point at halftime are actually more likely to win the teams that are ahead by one point. And so, I guess the lesson we derive from this is that unlike beginnings and unlike endings, midpoints are often invisible. We don't see them and yet they seem to exert this kind of force on us.
And so the key with midpoints is to be aware of them, to make them visible. And then once you do that, you can use them to wake up rather than rollover. And one way to effectuate that is to imagine that you're a little bit behind.
Hala Taha: Yeah. That's very interesting. And I could imagine like a project manager leading a team having like midpoint review going on, like here's all the things that we have left to do and like exerting pressure on the team, healthy pressure and stress to get things done.
Daniel Pink: Yeah. And just saying, Hey, we're a little bit behind. And the idea of being a little bit behind is really interesting because it experimental evidence showing that if you
[00:45:00] take a midpoint of something and at the mid point, people are way ahead. They actually don't improve their performance. If they're way behind, they can become complacent and can give up.
But if they're a little bit behind, they really bring it during that second half.
Hala Taha: Yeah. Okay. We're starting to run out of time. I do want to just cover ending. So how do endings typically impact our behavior?
Daniel Pink: Oh gosh. So many different way. Endings have a big effect on our lives. They have a big effect on our memory, so we're more likely to, we evaluate entire experiences based heavily on how they end.
Rather than on the totality of the experience or the average of the experience is a very well-known phenomenon in psychological science. Endings can help us energize. So when we see the end of something, we end up kicking a little bit harder. So this is some intriguing research from Adam Alter at NYU and how Hershfield at UCLA showing that people are most likely to run their very first marathon
at ages 29, 39, 49 and
[00:46:00] 59. When they get to the end of a decade. Endings can help us in some ways, focus on what's really important to us that helps us edit our lives. And so what across the life cycle, this is the research of Laura Carstensen at Stanford is that over the course of time, we ended up starting out our lives with
say not a huge number of friends. And then our number of friends grows throughout the middle of our life. But then later in life, say 60 and beyond the final, third of act three of our lives. We actually have fewer friends, which seems like a sad story, but Carstensen found that what's going on here is not sad at all.
What it means is that people have essentially shed the outer layer of friends, the middle layer of friends, and instead focus tightly on that inner circle of friends, because that's a real source of meaning and satisfaction. So again, our lives are so deeply episodic, as you say, projects have beginnings, middles, and ends.
Some relationships have beginnings, middles and ends, right? And so the key is to be aware of the episodic nature
[00:47:00] of these things. Beginnings, as we discuss, have one effect, endings have another effect, mid points, which are often invisible have another effect. And so if you aware of these things, you can actually make different decisions and use these forces, which we often don't see to our advantage rather than be hostage to them.
Hala Taha: Totally. And to everybody out there, I would totally recommend Daniel's book when it is so interesting. We couldn't even cover all of it. There's so much more valuable information in that book. So I definitely recommend to go grab that. I always end my show with this last question. What is your secret to profiting in life?
Daniel Pink: My secret to profiting in life? I guess if I tell you it's no longer a secret, right? That's an interesting question, Hala. I would say, not being too concerned about what other people think. Earlier in my life. I think I was pretty concerned about what other people thought of me. And then I had a great revelation.
I discovered what people thought of me and the answer was they weren't thinking about me. They were thinking about themselves. And that's liberating, if you stop caring too deeply about what other people think
[00:48:00] of you. I find that a source of great liberation and too many people are trying to conform to what they imagine.
Other people are thinking or evaluating them when in fact, all those other people couldn't care less about what these folks are doing.
Hala Taha: I totally agree. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?
Daniel Pink: So you can go to my website, which is wwwdanpink, Dan P I N k.com. I've got all kinds of good, cool free resources.
I've got an email newsletter, videos, all kinds of groovy stuffs.
Hala Taha: Awesome. I'll stick some links in my show notes. So my listeners have easy access. It was so nice to speak with you. I think our audience is really going to enjoy this show. So thank you so much for your time.
Daniel Pink: Thanks, Hala. It's been a pleasure.
Hala Taha: Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcast.
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