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Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
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Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

A new Daniel Pink book is an event, so it bodes well for 2018 that it was among the first notable releases this year. The author of the wildly successful and widely read Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us (2009) has become a thought leader among educators, managers, marketers, and others who gravitate toward paradigm-shifting, myth-busting, TED-Talk-giving cultural renegades. It’s not difficult to see why. Pink’s comfortable persona and writing style match up well, and his rigorous examination of research balanced with intriguing anecdote makes his work both accessible and challenging.

In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead Books, 2018), Pink gives us a look at how timing is not the random luck most of us think. “We all know that timing is everything,” he writes. “Trouble is, we don’t’ know much about timing itself. Our lives present a never-ending stream of—when to change careers, deliver bad news, schedule a class, end a marriage, go for a run, or get serious about a project or a person.” We believe timing is an art, but Pink explains that timing is really a science, “an emerging body of multifaceted, multidisciplinary research that offers fresh insights into the human condition and useful guidance on working smarter and living better.”

Yes. This is what the author calls not a how-to book but a when-to book.

Pink begins with circadian rhythms, those biological cycles we all have which roughly match up with our 24-hour days. It turns out that people (and other living creatures) all around the world in disparate cultures go through similarly shaped cycles of positive and negative affect. While our peaks and valleys may not line up with one another’s, the shapes of those peaks and valleys is remarkably similar. People feel increasingly happy through the morning, less happy in the afternoon, and happier again in the evening, and their feelings about each other follow a similar path.

The second part of the book deals with timing for beginnings, middles, and ends. When should people begin something big, and when should they call it quits? The final section is about how being in rhythm with others—even in such things as singing together—is better for our senses of good timing, not to mention our good moods.

At the end of each chapter, Pink offers a chapter of his Time-Hacker’s Handbook, a set of questionnaires designed to help the reader determine his or her best timing. Following the chapter on daily rhythms, he gives reasons for exercising in the morning or evening (if one has to choose). Morning exercise is better for weight loss, good mood, and strength building, while evening exercise is better for avoiding injury and enjoying the workout more. Other time-hacking chapters deal with taking a break during the workday (including naps, which we once again voice our advocacy for), when (in life or just during the year) to begin something new, how to deal with midpoint slow-downs, when to quit, and positive synching with friends, coworkers, and strangers.

The time-hackers handbook is a good idea that makes When an excellent choice for a group reading project, especially if participants will go through it in good faith. There’s enough material here for a work team to take its time with, but still have good stuff for conversation on a regular basis.

Introverts and creatives will find a few nice, encouraging affirmations here, as Pink himself is an introvert, although he advises that breaks taken in the company of others, especially if one is allowed to choose the people he or she takes a break with, are more beneficial than breaks taken alone.

Nearly everyone else will be talking about this one, and with good reason. It’s not a bad idea to buy it in analog format so you can be the one to pass it around!


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Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing - Executive Leadership Articles

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