Every day we face numerous decisions.  Some are small, for example when will I exercise? Other decisions could be life changing such as leaving a job or ending a relationship.  When is the right time to make decisions?

 In his recent book WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel H. Pink says that there is a pattern to our days.  Your moods and alertness all vary during the cycle of the day.

“First, our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of the day.  And second, these daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realize.” writes Pink.  

Based on over 700 studies, Pink and his colleagues found consistent patterns regardless of time of year or different cultures. People’s positive emotions rose in strength as the morning progressed and then fell significantly in the afternoon, before climbing back in the evening.  Daniel Pink tells us, “Across continents and time zones was the same daily oscillation -- a peak, a trough and a rebound.”  We do certain kinds of work better in the morning, during the peak time.  Most people move through the day in that order.  Those people who are strong night owls, go in the reverse order.  (Early morning people are called Larks.)  Regardless, during the peak, we are better at analytic work that requires heads down focus. In addition to moods and emotions, the quality of decisions follows the same “peak, trough, rebound” cycle. Less mistakes occur during the peak time and mistakes are most likely to happen during the trough period. 

Interestingly, patterns are not only over the course of a day, but also exist over the course of projects.  What happens to your motivation in the middle of the project?  A person’s motivation tends to wane in the middle of a project compared to the motivational level at the start (beginning) or at the end.  There is often a slump experienced after the beginning and before the midpoint. Most people then experience an “uh oh” moment and kick it back in gear.

Timing matters. Order also matters.  Should you tell good news first or bad news first?  Most everyone wants to hear the bad news first, so the discussion ends on a more positive note.  However, most messengers tend to reverse this -- giving the good news first, followed by bad. This leaves the receiver with lingering thoughts of the negative news, which then impacts a person’s moods and decisions.

Pink, an expert in motivation and management, stresses that modern science shows that scheduling and careful timing of our daily routines is crucial to our well- being.

For readers who like “how to” books, this is a “when to” book. WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel H. Pink is engaging and insightful and an easy read.  Pink provides practical recommendations at the end of each chapter. If you wonder if there is a right time to make a decision, reading this book is time well spent.