Make Time Work for You

Posted by Meredith Birkhead on Oct 3, 2019 11:19:38 AM

Daniel Pink’s widely acclaimed 2018 book, When, has been on my reading list since its release. Recently, I was finally able to sit down and completely immerse myself in the science of timing. Pink uses compelling data and anecdotes to explain how to transform time into a useful tool, rather than the enemy.  How can this relate to our everyday lives, especially in the workplace?

By tracking mood patterns through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and over 500 million tweets, researchers have found that most people feel increasingly happy throughout the morning, less happy in the afternoon and happier again in the evening.

Besides the relief in realizing that your 2:00pm – 3:00pm slump has scientific backing, understanding this pattern can help guide your work day as well. Each of us has a “chronotype” – a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influence our physiology and psychology. Pink refers to the different chronotypes as larks, owls, and “third birds” – an in-between.

Early chronotypes, or larks, wake up easily and feel energized throughout the day. By afternoon or evening, they wear out.

Late chronotypes, or owls, wake up late, are slow to get moving in the morning, and they peak in late afternoon or early evening.

Planning your day around your own peaks and valleys can help you be more productive and increase the quality of your work. Complex problems and analytical thinking should be saved for your peak times and when energy is low, focus on less draining tasks or take on creative projects. 

Additionally, understanding these patterns can help improve your meetings and oftentimes, drive the outcome you’re seeking. One example from When is an analysis of quarterly earnings calls. For all public companies, the stakes of these meetings are high as analysts probe for information about the company’s future. Pink highlights a recent study that analyzed over 26,000 earnings calls from over 2,100 public companies over six and a half years. Using linguistic algorithms, the researchers examined whether the time of day influenced the emotional tenor of those conversations – and, as a result, possibly even the price of the company’s stock.

After controlling for industry norms, growth opportunities, the news that companies were reporting and more, the research showed that calls held first thing in the morning were upbeat and positive. As the day progressed, the tone was more negative. Furthermore, the timing of the call influenced companies’ stock prices. Alarmingly, after adjusting for good news or bad news, shares declined in response to negative tone.

When scheduling an important meeting earlier this month, I put Pink’s lessons into practice. Tensions rose during a previous afternoon meeting and it was time to schedule a follow up conversation. Knowing that our team would need to present a convincing argument, I scheduled the meeting for the morning, instead. During the call, the attendees were noticeably more open-minded, and we gained approval for our recommendation. What seemed like a miracle could possibly be explained in the timing of the meeting.  As you prepare for your next board meeting or another important discussion, consider the time of day and use it to your advantage. 

Daniel Pink’s book, When, is filled with other interesting insights on when to schedule your job interview, how to fight the mid-life slump, and ending your workday on a positive note (hint: thank someone). Time is one of the most precious things on Earth. Don’t wait to use it better.