When by Daniel Pink

The Big Idea: Pay attention to the timing of events, decisions, and actions.



  • According to studies of Twitter, mood increases in the morning until about 11am, plummets after lunch, and then increases again in the evening.
  • Quarterly earnings calls in the morning tend to be more upbeat and positive than in the afternoon.
  • People are sharper and more vigilant earlier in the morning.
  • Verdicts rendered later in the day are more likely to be guilty.
  • Analytical tasks are best performed in the morning.
  • Students scored higher in the mornings than in the afternoons.
  • Having math in the first two periods of the school day instead of the last two periods increases the math GPA of students.
  • Innovation and creativity require less vigilance and fewer inhibitions and are optimal later in the day.
  • Some of us are night owls; others of us are morning larks. Most people are somewhere in the middle.
  • For Benjamin Franklin, early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • Figure out your type, understand your task, and then select the appropriate time.


  • Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangles of our days.
  • Adverse events in medicine were significantly more frequent for cases starting during the 3pm and 4pm hours.
  • The typical worker reaches the most unproductive moment of the day at 2:55pm.
  • Vigilance breaks can loosen the trough’s grip on our behavior.
  • A laminated checklist card can also increase afternoon vigilance.
  • If there were a break after every hour, test scores would actually improve over the course of the day.
  • Short breaks from a task can prevent habituation, help us maintain focus, and reactivate our commitment to a goal.
  • Moving breaks beat stationary breaks.
  • Social breaks beat solo breaks.
  • Outdoor breaks beat indoor breaks.
  • Fully detached breaks beat semidetached breaks (no email.)
  • Lunch breaks have two key ingredients — autonomy and detachment.
  • Naps can be a shrewd response to the trough and a valuable break. The ideal naps are between ten and twenty minutes. Drink coffee before you nap.
  • Meditation is one of the most effective breaks of all.
  • Most expert musicians and athletes begin practicing in earnest around nine o’clock in the morning, hit their peak during the late morning, break in the afternoon, and then practice for a few more hours in the evening.



  • Beginnings have an outsized effect on success.
  • For teenagers, beginning the school day before 8:30 am can impair their health and hobble their grades.
  • Beginning a career in a weak economy can restrict opportunities and reduce earning power well into adulthood.
  • Thinking slow (Daniel Kahneman) is more likely during a fresh start. Fresh starts tend to happen on Jan 1, 1st day of each month, and on Mondays.
  • Avoid a false start with a premortem. Assume it’s eighteen months from now and our project is a complete disaster. Ask yourself “What went wrong?”
  • If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re up against several strong candidates, you might gain an edge from being first.
  • If you are the default choice, don’t go first.
  • If there are many weak competitors, don’t go first.
  • If you’re operating in an uncertain environment, don’t go first.
  • When should you get married? Wait until you’re old enough, but not too old. Wait until you’ve completed your education. Wait until your relationship matures .


  • Midpoints can bring us down. That’s the slump. But they can also fire us up. That’s the spark.
  • At midpoints we tend to cut corners.
  • Success doesn’t usually progress steadily. At the midpoint of a project, members feel a sense of urgency and pick up the pace.
  • Teams that were behind by just one point at half were more likely to win than teams ahead by one point.
  • 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.
  • Set interim goals. Publicly commit to those interim goals.
  • Organize your next project with the form-storm-perform method.
  • Phase 1: Form and Storm. When teams first come together, develop a shared vision, establish group values, and generate ideas.
  • Phase 2: The Midpoint. Use the midpoint to set direction and accelerate the pace.
  • Phase 3: Perform. Work together with minimal friction.


  • First-time marathon participation declines in the early 40s but spikes dramatically at age 49.
  • When we near the end, we kick a little harder. Set a hard deadline (except for creative tasks.)
  • The James Dean Effect: a life that is short but intensely exciting is seen as most positive than a long, pleasant life that declines towards the end.
  • Peak-end rule: we remember an event based on it most intense moment (peak) and how it culminates (end.)
  • A shorter colonoscopy in which the final moments are painful is remembered as being worse than a longer colonoscopy that happens to end less unpleasantly.
  • Give bad news first, good news last.
  • Participants who knew they were eating the final chocolate of a taste test enjoyed it more.
  • In the end, we seek meaning. Meaningful endings mix happiness and sadness into poignancy, which delivers significance. Eg. Pixar endings.
  • Last lines can elevate and encode — by encapsulating a theme, resolving a question, leaving the story lingering in the reader’s head.
  • Jobs that are demanding but don’t offer autonomy burn us out. Jobs that offer autonomy but little challenge bore us.
  • If your boss has your back, takes responsibility instead of blaming others, encourages your efforts but also gets out of your way, and displays a sense of humor rather than a raging temper, you’re probably in a good place.
  • The high season for divorce attorneys is January and February, when the holidays are over and people can finally stop pretending to be happy. The same thing happens at the end of the school year.
  • Reserve the final five minutes of work for a few small deliberate actions that bring the day to a fulfilling close. End the day by recording what you’ve achieved can encode the entire day more positively.
  • Gratitude is a powerful restorative.
  • At the end of the year, have seniors write a letter to themselves — mailed to them five years later.
  • Take students to a small restaurant where they offer toasts to one another.
  • How a vacation ends shapes the stories we later tell about the experience.



  • Each day dabbawalas deliver more than 200,000 lunches to workers in Mumbai.
  • There are 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.
  • Group timing requires a boss. Groups generally attune to the pacing preferences of their highest-status members.
  • For the dabbawalas, the railway schedule is the boss.
  • The belongingness hypothesis is that a need to belong is a fundamental human motivation.
  • For group coordination, it comes in three forms: codes, garb, and touch.
  • Profit-sharing model pays each dabbawala in equal shares.
  • Clothing operates as a marker of affiliation and identification and enables coordination.
  • Feeling good promotes social cohesion, which makes it easier to synchronize. Synchronizing with others feels good, which deepens attachment and improves synchronization further still.
  • Tell stories of struggle, failure and vulnerability to foster a sense of belongingness.
  • Nurture self-organized group rituals, which help fuse identity and deepen belongingness.


  • Understand the natural waves of the day.
  • Lunch breaks, naps, and walks are not luxuries. They are necessities.
  • Don’t just push through bad starts. Start again or start together.
  • Midpoints matter. Leverage them.
  • Understand the power of endings. Don’t just make them positive. Make them poignancy and meaning.

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