• JTF

When or What? Understanding Timing


Who is it for: People who value efficiency, have looked for it, and have yet to find it.

What makes it special: Pink's approach is holistic, funny, well researched, and easy to read. It offers both practical techniques for the office as well as for everyday life.

Let's make some unnecessary labels: Productivity, Personal & Professional Development, Organizational Leadership.


Are you a lark, a night owl, or a 'third bird'? In Daniel H Pink's book "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," those questions become of significant importance. Understanding what your natural chronological archetype consists of can determine whether a day is considered productive or not. Pink's basic premise is that most people focus on what they need to accomplish but seldom look at the variable of timing. The value of such a variable is not only often overlooked but also extremely undervalued.

In a series of creative examples, and using a variety of research sources; Pink's argument develops from when to schedule your most creative work to the practical value and moral importance of vigilance checks. The author does not only analyze the significance of timing but the limitations of the human brain to process and effectively distribute information. Symbolism, the power of beginnings and endings, and how successful storytellers craft a story are also discussed in detail.

The applications for his techniques are wide-ranging. From when and how to take the perfect siesta. To the use of restorative breaks for learning and during the creative process. The author also includes techniques on how to manage and motivate a workforce. When to make a doctor's appointment and even when to workout, they're all covered in a wide range of imaginative scenarios backed by the author's research.

Some of the associations can be open to question. Still, Pink's main argument is solid: timing and attention are imperative for effective and efficient work and decision making. There is a utility for the book by people or organizations to which productivity is essential, but it serves anyone who has ever felt that there are never enough hours in a day. 

From educators to managers, to someone looking for a better morning routine, the book can be the perfect answer to a common question and frustration among many. That is, how can I make more time and follow up with goals and projects?

Those of us that tend to over-function, who view downtime as wasted time, and who are generally tired or anxious about the output created on any given day. This book will provide a reprieve. It is a welcome alternative to the common argument that being at rest is a liability, and to be busy is to be successful. Pink's examples carefully explain how downtime, purposeful breaks, and rest nourish the mind and body. How they are necessities, not niceties for high performance and a well balanced life. 

Finally, the author does a good job adding a section in the book about synchronicity, flow, and belonging, bringing to center stage the importance of human connection and participation on the motivation and ability to engage in any given tasks. The book applies in a professional or personal setting. It creates frameworks from which to structure an organization's culture, schedule, and outputs. Yet, it can also organize and supercharge an individual's day. It creates more options, and offers a road map for a successful life, not by doing more or less, but by arranging it at a different time and with a practical purpose.

Note: Whether to choose an audiobook or a printed copy dramatically depends on the narrator of the work. This book is well narrated, with an engaging and animated delivery that makes it an excellent choice for an audiobook. The charts, exercises, and techniques are on the author's website should the listener wish for further detail.