Insights

The Science of Optimizing Time for Marketers, Communicators, and Agencies

A book review of When by Daniel H. Pink

Too often, we don’t fully consider the influence of timing in how we conduct our lives. When, a new book by Daniel H. Pink, digs deep into how timing often affects outcomes, in ways both advantageous and damaging. This is especially true in the agency business, where time management is a key factor of success.

What follows are five take-aways from Pink’s book of which agency workers should take heed:

1. RECOGNIZE THE DAILY RHYTHM MOST PEOPLE SHARE.

Pink writes about two researchers who studied a half million tweets emanating from 84 countries over a period of two years. The researchers analyzed these tweets to learn how people’s emotions changed from morning to night. What they found was a clear pattern of growing positive emotions in the morning, falling emotions in the afternoon, and then climbing emotions again in the evening. The book indicates that mornings are the best time for analytical work requiring vigilance, and that late afternoons are the best time for creativity and brainstorming.

2. MAKE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CALLS IN THE MORNING.

Another study cited by Pink focuses on the timing of earnings calls conducted by public companies. Over six years, three business school professors analyzed 26,000 earnings calls made by 2,100 public companies. The study found that earnings calls scheduled in the morning often had an upbeat tone, but as the day progressed they became more negative. The mood rebounded slightly after lunch, but slid back towards negativity in the hours before the closing bell. The professors also found a direct correlation between tone of the calls and stock prices. Positive calls correlated with gains, and negative ones with losses.

3. RECONSIDER GOING FIRST.

Pink’s statistics show people most often stick with the default choice when they are fatigued (usually in the afternoons). Therefore, those pitching for new business who are not the incumbent agency should try to go first. The same rule holds if there are five or fewer competitors – the first one becomes the standard to beat. When you’re the incumbent, however, it’s wise to go later and take advantage of the comfort of familiarity.

4. MAKE BREAKS MORE EFFECTIVE.

Pink is a big proponent of taking breaks to overcome the dip in mood that tends to afflict workers in the afternoon. Research by a productivity tracking software company found that the most effective workers take recovery breaks. Pink finds that active breaks are better than stationary breaks, social breaks restore more energy than solo ones, outdoor breaks beat staying indoors, and fully detached breaks are superior to the semi-detached kind where we step away from work while continuing to think or talk about it.

5. TAKE YOUR TIME AT LUNCH.

While breakfast remains essential to kickstart your day and maintain a healthy weight, Pink cites studies which show the restorative benefits of a full lunch. In one study of 800 workers from eleven companies (including technology and media companies), researchers found that workers who went out to lunch showed greater vigor and stress management ability than those who ate at their desks. This isn’t a novel notion: the online world loves to mock the sad desk lunch, and some companies like the real estate company CBRE have taken the next step by banning them altogether.

The rhythms Pink cites don’t apply to everyone (some people are natural night owls). But according to researchers, about 75 percent of us follow the daily pattern of rising-falling-rising moods and energy levels. Awareness of how we can use timing to our advantage is crucial for both work productivity and personal life satisfaction. The key is to pay attention not just to what we are doing, but also when we do it.

BRIAN GRIFFIN IS THE CEO OF VERO

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