Notes & Quotes: When by Daniel Pink

The following are my favorite quotes from Daniel Pink's When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
  1. Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangle of our days. Across many domains, the trough represents a danger zone for productivity, ethics, and health.
  2. The typical worker reaches the most unproductive moment of the day at 2:55 p.m. When we enter this region of the day, we often lose our bearings.
  3. As the doctors at the University of Michigan demonstrate, inserting regular mandatory vigilance breaks into tasks helps us regain the focus needed to proceed with challenging work that must be done in the afternoon.
  4. If you happen to appear before a parole board just before a break rather than just after one, you'll likely spend a few more years in jail -- not because of the facts of the case but because of the time of the day.
  5. DeskTime claims to have discovered a golden ratio of work and rest. High performers, its research concludes, work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes.
  6. While naps between thirty and ninety minutes can produce some long-term benefits, they come with steep costs. The ideal naps -- those that combine effectiveness with efficiency -- are far shorter, usually between ten and twenty minutes.
  7. Lisa Kahn's discovery: Those who entered the job market in weak economies earned less at the beginning of their careers than those who started in strong economies -- no big surprise. But this early disadvantage didn't fade. It persisted for as long as twenty years.
  8. We should recognize that having a lot of people earning too little or struggling to make their way affects all of us -- in the form of fewer customers for what we're selling and higher taxes to deal with the consequences of limited opportunities.
  9. Four situations when you should go first:
    1. On a ballot.
    2. If you're not the default choice.
    3. If there are relatively few competitors.
    4. If you're interviewing for a job and you're up against several strong candidates.
  10. Four tips for making a fast start in a new job:
    1. Begin before you begin.
    2. Let your results do the talking.
    3. Stockpile your motivation.
    4. Sustain your morale with small wins.
  11. The "uh-oh" effect: When we reach a midpoint, sometimes we slump, but other times we jump. A mental siren alerts us that we've squandered half of our time. That injects a healthy dose of stress that revives our motivation and reshapes our energy.
  12. The best hope for turning a slump into a spark involves three steps. First, be aware of midpoints. Don't let them remain invisible. Second, use them to wake up rather than roll over. Third, at the midpoint, imagine that you're behind -- but only by a little.
  13. Five ways to reawaken your motivation during a midpoint slump:
    1. Set interim goals.
    2. Publicly commit to these goals.
    3. Stop your sentence midway through.
    4. Don't break the chain. (the Seinfeld technique)
    5. Picture one person your work will help.
  14. Closings, conclusions, and culminations reveal something essential about the human condition: In the end, we seek meaning.
  15. Groups that depend on synchronization for success -- choirs, rowing teams, and Mumbai dabbawalas -- abide by three principles of group timing. An external standard sets the pace. A sense of belonging helps individuals cohere. And synchronization both requires and heightens well-being. Put another way, groups must synchronize on three levels -- to the boss, to the tribe, and to the heart.
  16. The two critical pillars of the dabbawala creed are that "work is worship" and that the "customer is god."
  17. To maintain a well-timed group you should regularly -- once a week or at least once a month -- ask these three questions:
    1. Do we have a clear boss?
    2. Are we fostering a sense of belonging?
    3. Are we activating the uplift -- feeling good and doing good?
  18. Strong-future languages such as English, Italian, and Korean require speakers to make sharp distinctions between the present and the future. Weak-future languages such as Mandarin, Finnish, and Estonian draw little or often no contrast at all.
  19. The path to a life of meaning and significance isn't to "live in the present" as so many spiritual gurus have advised. It is to integrate our perspectives on time into a coherent whole, one that helps us comprehend who we are and why we're here.
  20. The challenge of the human condition is to bring the past, present, and future together.
  21. I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them. I used to believe that lunch breaks, naps, and taking walks were niceties. Now I believe they're necessities. I used to believe that the best way to overcome a bad start at work, at school, or at home was to shake it off and move on. Now I believe the better approach is to start again or start together. I used to believe that midpoints didn't matter -- mostly because I was oblivious to their very existence. Now I believe that midpoints illustrate something fundamental about how people behave and how the world works. I used to believe in the value of happy endings. Now I believe that the power of endings rests not in their unmitigated sunniness but in their poignancy and meaning. I used to believe that synchronizing with others was merely a mechanical process. Now I believe that it requires a sense of belonging, rewards a sense of purpose, and reveals a part of our nature. I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.