Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) is the author of New York Times Best Seller When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which examines the psychology, biology, and economics behind scheduling for optimal effect — and why your ideal time to get something done may widely differ from someone else’s.

What We Discuss with Daniel Pink:

  • Timing is everything — but we’re only now beginning to connect the dots between fields of research to discover the science behind how timing actually works.
  • How humans are wired for time by chronotypes, how to identify our own particular chronotype, and what we can do to match our schedules to this chronotype.
  • What the trough is, how it differs according to chronotype, and how it affects the decisions we make — for better or worse.
  • How observing the nappuccino and other restorative breaks during the day can minimize the worst effects of the trough.
  • Why lunch is really the most important meal of the day.
  • And much more…
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When considering the time of day during which you’re most productive, you probably already know if you’re a morning person, a night owl, or somewhere in between. You probably also know how hard it is to change from one of these chronotypes to another — but would you feel better if you knew there are more variables at play than your sheer willpower?

In this episode, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing author Daniel Pink helps us identify our particular chronotype and maximize productivity accordingly. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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Time and the way human beings relate to it has been pondered and studied for as long as there have been human beings. So why are we only now beginning to truly understand the variables that hold sway over this relationship? When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing author Daniel Pink explains:

“What I found as I started working on this is that all of these researchers in all of these different fields — whether they start with the body and biology or whether they start outside of the body to the lived experience of human beings, they’re all asking very similar questions about time. But they weren’t talking to each other. So the endocrinologists weren’t talking to the economists, who weren’t talking to the anthropologists, who weren’t talking to the molecular biologists.

“But they were all asking very similar questions: what’s the effect of time of day on what we do and how we do it? How do beginnings affect us? How do midpoints affect us? How do endings affect us? How do groups synchronize their time? So what I tried to do here is go wide and deep into this research and say, ‘This research, if we wrestle it to the ground, it can help us make better decisions about when to do things informed by evidence and data, not simply by our intuition and guesses.'”

Circadian Rhythm Entrainment

While our biology on a cellular level is keenly aware of the passage of time, we also take social cues from our environment — from the light of the sun to the darkness of night to the schedules that send us to work and school — that result in the entrainment of our circadian rhythms. But when we’re removed from the presence of these cues, strange things start to happen.

“The human daily cycle runs longer than 24 hours,” says Daniel. “It’s something like 24 hours and 11 minutes. So if you put people underground without any of these social cues, over time, they start to go out of sync with the above-ground world. So they are falling asleep at three in the afternoon in the external world and waking up at 11 p.m. in the external world and living it up between midnight and eight a.m. in the external world. So it’s this complex synchronization between our biology — our chronotype — and all the social cues.”

The Daily Pattern of Positive and Negative Sentiment

It might seem like an urban legend that time of day can have any measurable, consistent effect on overall positive and negative sentiment, but research has shown that it undoubtedly matters. In one study, the morning timing of a company’s earnings calls proved more positive than calls in the afternoon — and this had serious repercussions.

“Even if you control for the news that’s being reported, calls in the afternoon were more negative, irritable, and combative than calls in the morning,” says Daniel. “Now that’s interesting, but it has a material effect on thing because what they also showed is that negative sentiment led to temporary stock mispricings. Because of that negative sentiment, the price of the stock was tugged lower than it should have been. Now that’s a big deal!”

Daniel also points out that these earnings calls are made by CEOs and CFOs — reasonably competent and well-prepared executives trusted to make huge decisions on a corporate level.

“Even then, these diurnal patterns — these daily patterns — are affecting them invisibly,” Daniel says. “This is the key point: what we know is our days have a hidden pattern and they exert an influence that we often can’t see.”

Further research shows these patterns also influence decisions made in courtrooms, hospitals, and schools — which makes a strong case for clearing any potentially life-or-death scenarios from your calendar early in the day.

What’s Your Chronotype?

When do you feel like you’re really operating at your cognitive peak? This determines your chronotype.

“About 20 percent of us are very strong evening people — owls,” says Daniel. “15 percent of us are [very strong morning people] larks. Two-thirds of us are in between. So there are some people who can regularly get up at three o’clock in the morning. If they’re sacrificing sleep in order to do that — and remember, if you want to get eight hours of sleep and wake up at three o’clock in the morning, you have to go to sleep at seven p.m.”

Our chronotypes can change as we age, but a conscious shift is very difficult to will into existence.

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how we can determine what our own chronotype happens to be (if we don’t know already), how we should schedule our day by chronotype, how the season of our birth may influence the chronotype we wind up with, chronotype tendencies that go beyond hours of peak vigilance, how we might adjust to work a schedule that goes against our chronotype (or convince our work to adjust to us), the tasks ideal for our peak, trough, and recovery times, when we should exercise, why we probably shouldn’t have a cup of coffee immediately upon waking (but embracing the nappuccino is a-ok), and lots more.


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