The science of timing and how to maximize your day


I’m finishing up the new book “When: the scientific secrets of perfect timing” by Daniel H. Pink. Pink writes on management and behavioral science.
Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.
Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.
This book was helpful for me. Since getting married last year, I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating my schedule and how I utilize time.
How do we maximize our time?
We all have times of the day that are more optimal for us to get work done. From “When” and numerous other books I’ve read on the subject, it is essential for people who work in fields that take a lot of mental energy to allow their minds time to recharge.
To some, that might seem lazy.
But it’s really just human nature. We have a finite amount of physical and mental energy.
Pink talks in the book about how it used to be a badge of honor for people who worked long hours and sacrificed sleep to work. But how, often times, the quality of the work struggles when people do that.
We aren’t robots who can just devote endless hours to accomplishing tasks.
What is more likely to happen is that our minds start to wander and drift and we have time that is spent pretending to work, or looking like we’re working but actually accomplishing very little. In reality, people spend a lot of time socializing, texting, playing on their phones, looking online.
In one study (not mentioned in this book), 1,989 British office workers were found to spend just less than three hours a day actually working.
This is a reality of what happens.
So my interest is in maximizing efficiency in that.
And that’s where I found “When” helpful, because part of what this book did was analyze the rhythms of the day. It’s important to structure the day where we are working on what’s important at our optimal times of productivity.
Many (not all) adults are able to hit the ground running in the morning. As the morning goes on, closer to lunch time, that mental productivity can wane. In the middle of the afternoon, around 2:30, our productivity hits another low.
For many people, we hit a rut approximately seven hours after waking up.
 And the peaks and valleys of the day have real consequences. Citing numerous studies, in the late morning and mid-afternoon lulls, there is a statistical increase in medical errors during surgery; people who are up for parole have a higher chance of being denied; test scores go down for students.
So with this knowledge and applying it to life, it might be a waste of prime mental real estate to start the day off by doing a relatively mindless task like checking emails.
The book also talks of the importance of rest. But not just any rest but productive rest. Pink argues that checking text messages on a break can actually be counterproductive. We do many things that aren’t productive but which also aren’t conducive to rest and recharging. And perhaps the lack of rest also perpetuates the problem of a lack of productivity.
Work hard, play hard.
I thought the book was well-written, well researched, practical. I’d recommend it.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.