Dan Pink is one of my favorite non-fiction authors.
It started in 2006, with A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Filled with fascinating stories about advances made by right-brain, creative types, this book prompted a major career pivot for me, as I started to experiment with content marketing, long before it hit mainstream.
In 2011, it was on to Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, where the research and stories applied to both the work and home fronts. Two years later, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others was released – I enjoyed this one so much, I built an entire workshop around it.
Yep, I’m a Dan Pink fan and his latest book is excellent – WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
In this book, Pink explores a kaleidoscope of scientific research and stories about scheduling the right tasks at the right time. While it’s not written in the context of events, there were countless occasions when I was reading this book and thinking, “How might this apply to the events realm?”
In this post, I’ll tease out a few highlights from Pink’s book – just enough to convince you to give it a closer look, because it’s that good.
“Timing is Everything”
We’ve heard that quote hundreds of times. Yet for many, this concept of perfect timing is thought to be more serendipitous and elusive, less something we can plan for or manipulate.
Think again. The science is in and while there are no hard-and-fast timing rules that apply to everyone, there are interesting trends that apply to most people.
Could History Be a Timing Culprit?
In an interview with Face the Nation, moderator John Dickerson asked, “Has human history fouled us up? We needed to create time and watches and hours… but did we figure out a system that’s basically always fighting with our natural rhythms?”
Pink’s answer: “One of the things I’ve discovered researching time itself is that a lot of the things we think of as natural are completely human inventions designed to corral time. An hour has no natural substance to it. A minute doesn’t have any natural substance to it. Certainly, a year does because the planet goes around. A day does because the planet spins on its axis – but beyond that, we’re always trying to corral time.”
He went on to say, “As a consequence, when we think about our own performance, we focus on what we’re going to do. We focus on how we’re going to do it. We focus on who we’re going to do it with, but we put ‘when’ questions over there at the kids table, saying that it’s not that important. The science is telling us it’s demonstrably important.”
Navigating through Three Daily Phases
Pink kicks off WHEN by introducing a daily oscillation pattern that rings true for most people:
- The Peak – typically occurs during the morning hours, when we’re better at tackling analytic tasks and work that requires heads-down, undistracted thinking.
- The Trough – typically occurs in the early afternoon, often just after lunch, when we’re slower, dimmer and better off tackling administrative tasks.
- The Recovery – an upswing that typically hits in the late afternoon, when we’re less inhibited, in a better mood, and more adept at insight thinking, discovery, and creative tasks.
Pink refers to the afternoon trough as the “Bermuda Triangle” of our days. Across many domains, the trough represents a danger zone for productivity, ethics, and health.”
But there’s one more consideration we need to factor in, especially in the context of events…
Chronotypes: Larks, Owls, and Third Birds
Obviously, larks are your early risers and usually the first to arrive at your breakfast buffet. Larks are also more likely to exit evening receptions earlier than others.
Owls, on the other hand, are more likely to skip breakfast and even your opening general session. If there’s an after-hours party, Owls, who also tend to be more extroverted, will stick around until the end. Keep in mind, for Owls, their trough might not hit until late afternoon or early evening.
If you’re a parent, you’ve likely witnessed a few chronotype transformations, as toddler larks often morph into teenage owls. Research shows that this teenage owl tendency often lingers into early adulthood – something to consider, as you conjure up plans to engage Generation Z.
Then there are the Third Birds – a new chronotype discovery for me. Happily, research shows that most of us fall into this hybrid mix Third Bird category – a moderation between the two extremes, that tips slightly in favor of Lark schedules.
There’s so much more in this book for event organizers to ponder, especially Chapter 2 where Pink examines the power of breaks, the promise of lunch, and the case for a modern siesta.
Did you know that breaks are more rejuvenating when:
- Taken with others, rather than solo?
- You’re fully detached, rather than partially, with one eye on your device?
- Paired with movement or activity? Bring on the Walk & Talks, especially during the early afternoon breakout sessions.
- You’re near nature? If a stroll outside isn’t possible for your event guests, situating break tables near windows is your next best option.
So next time you’re on the brink of a trough, perhaps a trip to the library or bookstore might be in order, so you can give WHEN a closer look.
If you time this perfectly, you might return to the office with an idea to explore when you rebound.