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'Take more breaks', 4 other facts about author Daniel Pink's scientific secrets of perfect timing

Author Daniel Pink talks about the science of timing and how to work efficiently.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
Author Daniel Pink talks about the science of timing and how to work efficiently.

Author Daniel Pink researched the science of timing to see how time of day affects what we do and how we do it.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to Pink about his latest book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” where the bestselling author drew on research from psychology, biology and economics to reveal how to live and work efficiently.

Time of day influences our performance

“Chronobiology” is the study of time in living organisms and their adaptation to solar and lunar-related rhythms. Understanding your “chronotype” (biological rhythm) is the first step to understanding what you should do, and the time of day to do it. Time of day explains 20 percent of the variants in human performance on brain power tasks at work. For example, handwashing in hospitals deteriorates significantly during the afternoon and physicians are more likely to prescribe necessary antibiotics in the afternoon and anesthesia errors are four times more likely to occur at 3 p.m. than at 9 a.m.

Three types of people – larks, owls and third birds

Pink uses birds to metaphorically describe people’s chronotypes. Larks are morning people who wake up early and fall asleep early. Owls are night people who wake up late and sleep late. Most humans are third birds that fall in the middle, meaning the time you wake up varies from the days you work versus off days. Chronotypes can change as people age.

A day has three main stages

Pink said mood and performance go through three broad stages in a day – a peak, trough and recovery. During the peak, mood and performance is elevated. This time is good for analytical tasks that require focused attention. The trough occurs approximately seven hours after a person wakes up; mood and performance plummets so the time is best for administrative work. But during the recovery, mood elevates again but people don’t perform as vigilantly. This time is good for creative work like brainstorming.

Take breaks to enhance work performance during troughs

Scheduling in a couple of 10 or 15 minute breaks throughout the work day helps improve work performance, Pink said. Breaks can include napping, taking a walk or spending time outside with somebody else. The key is to avoid bringing up work issues in order to practice full detachment from the work place.

Lunch is the most important meal of the day – not breakfast

While breakfast is essential for a balanced diet, Pink makes the case that lunch is more impactful to the body. Lunchtime is restorative to the body since it’s a break that has components of work detachment and autonomy.

Listen to the full discussion:


Related Event:

What: Daniel H. Pink – When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
When: Jan. 17, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63117

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.