Book Review: When by Dan Pink

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink


When is an interesting question.  I find it is either the first or the last one I ask, with who, what and why garnering most of my attention.  As the first, when acts the primary constraint.  As the last, it is just a detail to be sorted out with everything else.

Dan Pink make it the primary question in his new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. The book is a meta-study of sorts on how time and timing affects us. Like all of Pink’s books, it is high on utility and how-to.  This book, in particular, felt like it belonged in paperback with pages dog-eared and covered in orange highlighter.

The handbook quality to this title comes from Pink covering lots of smaller things versus one overarching idea. I know that might sound contradictory since the book about one topic but it is a question of scale.  When tackles topics ranging from daily fluctuations in energy levels to the best time to start a new habit to cyclical happiness over a lifetime. We don’t carry all of those in the same mental bucket.

Here are my highlights which I think will demonstrate what I am talking about:

  • Cultures with less distinctive future tenses in their languages (Mandarin, Finnish, Estonian) are 30% more likely to save for retirement, 24% less likely to smoke, practice safer sex, and exercise more. The theory is that people feel less separated from their “future” selves using present tense verbs.
  • Endings are important. Start reading the last lines of books for inspiration from completion.
  • Ernest Hemingway used to stop mid-sentence at the end of a day of writing to give him a strong place to start from the next day.
  • Most of us experience an energy trough in the afternoon.  This leads to more medical errors, more judicial convictions and a higher likelihood to lie, cheat and steal. Antidote – TAKE BREAKS! Movement with people outside is the best combination.
  • End your work day with this five-minute routine: write down what you accomplished because measuring progress is powerful, plan your top three goals for tomorrow because goal setting is proven helpful, and thank someone because gratitude practice is a highly reliable method to higher levels of happiness.

The book holds together and you should check it out. Now.

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