Use The Science of Timing to Increase Your Productivity and Happiness
Timing plays a role in every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s a job interview, your first date, starting a company, or completing your daily tasks, timing impacts the outcome.
- If you meet the right person at the wrong time, a relationship won’t work.
- A hiring manager’s fight with a spouse the evening prior could bias their candidate’s evaluation.
- Two entrepreneurs might have the same idea, but timing will impact the probability of their success.
In 2009, when we started Unmistakable Creative, everybody said podcasting was dead. Timing let us benefit from a 10-year head start on what eventually became a massive trend.
We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our actions, and use the science of timing to increase our productivity and happiness.
The Science of Timing
Our cognitive abilities, mood, and performance depend on the time of day.
Our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day. During the sixteen or so hours we’re awake, they change — often in a regular, foreseeable manner. We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others. -Dan Pink, When: The Secret Science of Perfect Timing
The daily performance curve consists of a peak, trough, and rebound. When you hit each point on the curve depends on whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, also known as your chronotype.
My old roommate Tim Wolf hit his peak at 6 pm, and I hit mine at 9–10 am. But for the majority of people, alertness peaks at noon and declines after. And you can use the science of timing to increase your productivity and happiness.
Use the Synchrony Effect to Plan Your Days
“What ultimately matters, then, is that type, task, and time align — what social scientists call the synchrony effect,” says Dan Pink. By identifying your chronotype you can use the synchrony effect to plan your days.
Identify Your Peaks and Troughs
Most people have an instinctual understanding of when they’re at their best. By planning your day based on your peaks and troughs, you become more productive.
You might think you know how you spend your time, but the best way to gather data about how you’re really spending your time is by using a software.
Rize.io is a time-tracking app that helps you use data to identify your peaks and throughs. It gives you a comprehensive breakdown of how much time you spend in meetings, on websites, and in apps that you access daily. It also shows what your biggest sources of interruption are.
Schedule Important Tasks at Your Peak
Because cognitive ability fluctuates throughout the day, you want to avoid mundane tasks like checking and responding to emails at the peak of your day. If deep work is important to you, do it when your cognitive ability is at its peak.
Schedule Mundane Tasks in Your Trough
Mundane tasks are necessary evils like
Calling your bank
Talking to Customer Service
Even though these tasks are important, it’s better to schedule them at the trough of your day.
- First, these types of tasks don’t require a lot of cognitive bandwidth or focus, so they’re best tackled when you’re not at your peak
- Second, dealing with them when you’re at your peak leads to context shifts and decreases your productivity, which can disrupt your workflow and derail your day.
- Third, these types of tasks can test your patience, as anyone who has been on the phone with the IRS for 3 hours knows. It’s almost impossible to get back to work after spending three hours on hold, so it’s best to avoid these tasks during your most productive hours.
To summarize, avoid dealing with necessary evils in your most productive hours.
How I use the Synchrony Effect to Plan My Days
After conducting over 1000 interviews for Unmistakable Creative, I realized the quality declines If I do more than one each day. I schedule all my interviews between 10 am and 12 pm before the kick-in. The same effort yields lower output after 12pm, both in terms of quality and quantity.
- First, this gives me a few hours to do deep work during the peak of my day. I spend this time reading and writing.
- Second, it feeds my mind with potential conversation topics for that day’s interview
- Third, it allows me to before I hit the trough of my day.
Using the synchrony effect allows you to do your most important work when you’re at your best.
Using the Science of Timing and Peak End Rule for Positive Memories
A few months ago, my dad and I went to see one of my favorite Indian musicians in concert. AR Rahaman is a musical legend in India. But the middle of the concert was somewhat boring.
For the grande finale, AR Rahman played a song called Vande Matram, a patriotic song that celebrates India as a motherland. The lyrics express reverence and love for the country, and the song is often sung during national celebrations. He intentionally chose Vande Matram as the final song, because.
Authors, musicians, and filmmakers all exploit what’s known as the peak-end rule because they know we judge the whole meal by the desert, a concert by its finale, and a movie by the ending.
And we can use the peak-end rule to positively encode our days and our memories.
Log Your Daily Accomplishments
Most people finish their day by reviewing their to-do lists and creating a new one for the next day. As a result, we always feel like we either feel like we didn’t get enough done or that we didn’t get anything done.
But we can easily change our perception of how productive we’ve been when we
“Without tracking our “dones,” we often don’t know whether we’re progressing. Ending the day by recording what you’ve achieved can encode the entire day more positively,” says Dan Pink in his book.
Logging daily accomplishments lead to visible progress. And progress amplifies motivation, creating a cycle of progress, motivation, and momentum.
Save the Best for Last
Whether it’s a vacation, a trip to visit family, or dinner with friends, how the experience ends will determine whether you have a negative or positive memory of it.
- Do the most exciting thing on your vacation on the last day
- Have your favorite meal on the last day of a trip to visit family
- End dinner with close friends on a high note
In the words of Vanessa Williams, save the best for last.
By becoming more intentional about when you do something, what you do becomes more enjoyable, and meaningful, and increases both your happiness and productivity. Don’t just focus on what to do, but focus on when you do it.
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