When: Owls, Larks and Third Birds

Dan Pink’s latest book ‘When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing’ had me enthralled from start to finish. He makes a strong case for thinking carefully about ‘when’ we do things – think, make decisions, exercise, time breaks…

We are all governed by ‘circadian rhythms’ – our internal body clock that keeps us functioning.  Pink quotes various research that tracks positive affect (how good we feel) and shows there are twin peaks in a 24-hour cycle: ‘emotional balance rises in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and rises again in the evening’. We typically feel best around mid-day and 9 pm-ish.

How could you use this knowledge? Researchers found that the time of day that company earnings call were made impacted the market reception and influenced company stock prices in the short term. They concluded that investor communications are best delivered early in the day!

Other useful and actionable summaries of the research I liked include:

  • Our cognitive ability varies significantly over the day, with differences between the high and low points equal to the impact on performance of drinking the legal limit of alcohol. (Well that’s worrying if you don’t get it right!)
  • Our performance across the day depends also on whether we are undertaking challenges that require logical thinking, or challenges that are best solved with insight. (Makes self-knowledge important.)
  • There are three broad ‘chronotypes’ – personal pattern of circadian rhythms:
    • Larks – morning types. Get up early feeling energised and wear out by evening. (Disclosure – this is me)
    • Owls – evening types. Sleep in (or get up reluctantly) and begin peaking late afternoon and evening.
    • Third Birds – Somewhere in the middle of Lark and Owl.

So what to do about this? Pink has the answer. Determine your chronotype, and then follow the ‘daily when chart’ I have reproduced below.

Want to know more? Here’s a great infographic on Pink’s website about Larks, Owls and Third Birds.

And then read the book. He covers the importance and impact of beginnings, middles and ends, syncing group timing and so much more. In case you haven’t noticed, I am Dan Pink fan. I even have a ‘when’ t-shirt. Yes! I really do!

So how’s your timing? When will you do something about that?