Book: “When” – Daniel Pink (Read)

A book about timing effects, explained through science and correlation

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The author uses anecdotes to help the reader better understand his messages. The book also helps readers understand themselves and people around them, while allowing the readers to be aware of what they can change.

15 takeaways

  1. Afternoon, specifically between 2-6pm, people enter the emotional trough of the day. People might want to avoid important decisions during this time. This applies to most of us (around 65%), while around 35% other people wake up either super early or super late, therefore the emotional trough may be pushed back or brought forward.
  2. Tips to help with decision-making during 2-6pm (unavoidable). 1) deep breaths, 2) run checklist, 3) temporary disengagement. In fact, test scores are lowest in the afternoon (equivalent to spending less time in school and having low-income parents) but is boosted significantly after a short break. Judges also are more lenient after a short break. Breaks are very important. Social breaks are even better.
  3. Exercise the early, you’ll enjoy the full effects for the whole day.
  4. Naps of 20 minutes or less usually don’t produce sleep inertia. However, longer naps also give longer cognitive functioning.
  5. Kids tend to sleep later and wake up later as they hit puberty. Colleges should be designed to have its first class at around 11am (according to Frontiers in Human Neuroscience).
  6. People don’t take “when” as seriously as “what”, even though it’s just as important.
  7. Using “fresh start effect” to your advantage. Use it often to jump start projects or ideas, it is like “thinking slow” in Daniel Kahneman’s book (Thinking, fast and slow). Frame things and dates to give them meaning, allowing a new beginning in an organization, like naming a certain date the birthday of a company.
  8. Avoiding bad starts with “pre-mortem”, identify all possible threats before starting.
  9. Going first or last? Go first to set an impression, especially if you’re not the default choice (runner-up). When the pool is large, go last.
  10. Recognizing midpoints of everything. Mid-life crisis, middle of day, middle of test, middle of projects, and many more middles. The slump usually occurs during the middle. So set frequent targets, get over the slump quicker.
  11. Buffet technique: Write down the top 25 goals, circle the top 5 and discard the rest. Aim to achieve the top 5 before even considering anything else.
  12. Encoding is powerful, it’s how you remember the essence of matters. It is often communicated and implied by endings (therefore just as important), the last sentence of a book or the last thing to occur for an event. Use it to your advantage by journaling daily achievements, remind yourself of what you have/haven’t accomplished for the day.
  13. Entrainment, a term that means synching of internal clocks with external cues (sleep when dark outside). It is key to group efforts, where a leader is needed for ultimate synching. A culture and sense of belonging (unique to the group) will help with the synch.
  14. Strong-future (English & French) vs. weak-future languages (Mandarin & German). Future feels more closely connected to the current self in a weak-future language, allowing people to think about consequences down the line. It really isn’t about “living in the present” but rather “integrate the present in the bigger picture”.
  15. “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing” – Daniel H. Pink


Be cognizant of the “when” of an event, whether it’s tests, games, or competitions. Realize that everyone has the same 24 hours, so the more effective it is being used, the better results will become. Use every and any time as a positive sign (practice “glass half full” mentality), know your best times and prioritize, organize, plan, and execute accordingly. Know what you truly need, whether that’s things, friends, tasks, or goals, you get better at weeding out the unnecessary over time but be conscious of your decisions.

Personally, I’m trying to juggle between too many things, while having a hard time focusing on what to prioritize. I now know that I will prioritize my day by working on 1) startup idea, 2) blog, and 3) work during my free time.

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