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Summary: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

“Timing isn’t everything but it’s a big thing” – Daniel Pink

Between the hours of 2pm and 4pm (the midday “trough”):

  • Doctors mistakenly give more patients a fatal dose of anesthesia before surgery than any other time of the day.
  • Danish schoolchildren score significantly lower on standardized exams.
  • CEOs of publicly traded companies are more likely to say something stupid in a quarterly earnings call and cause their stock price to drop.

“Across many domains, (the midday) represents a danger zone for productivity, ethics, and health.” – Daniel Pink

Your attention and mental ability is biologically programmed to rise and fall according to your circadian rhythm. When you wake up your attention and mental ability peak, trough, and rebound for approximately the next 16 hours.

Book Summary: When - The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

During the Peak (first 7 hours of your day)

Execute logical work. Focus on clarifying, organizing, structuring, and explaining. Do work similar to programming a computer, writing a legal brief, or taking a math test.

If you’re a writer or content creator, do your research and editing during the peak.

If you’re an salesperson, schedule important sales calls during the peak.

If you’re an educator or student, schedule math and science classes during the peak.

During the Trough (7-9 hours after waking up)

The best thing you can do in the through is avoid important work or take a nap.

“In many ways, naps are Zambonis for our brains. They smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice.” – Daniel Pink

The best naps are between 10-20 minutes. That’s right, 10-20 minutes is all you need. A 5-minute nap has no effect, but a 10-minute nap is scientifically proven to increase mental alertness for three hours.

“Italian police officers who took naps immediately before their afternoon and evening shifts had 48 percent fewer traffic accidents than those who didn’t nap.” – Daniel Pink

NASA pilots, air traffic controllers, and computer programmers routinely take naps to boost performance.

If you can’t nap take frequent breaks and execute your least important, most mundane work (run errands, sort notes, clean the house, etc.).

During the Rebound (last 7 hours of the day)

Execute insight work. Focus on generating ideas, innovating, and designing.

If you’re a writer or content creator, do your creative writing during the rebound.

If you’re a salesperson, brainstorm ideas for your next presentation during the rebound.

If you’re an educator or student, schedule art and design classes during the rebound.


You might be the ~25% of people who have the late chronotype and experience a “peak” in attention in the evening and “rebound” in the morning. If you have a late chronotype, you will perform best on logical tasks in the evening and insight tasks in the morning.

You have a late chronotype if on free days (you don’t have obligations and you haven’t been partying all night) you are slow to get up and have a moderate amount of energy in the mid-morning, but experience a surge of energy in the evening.



“When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink is a thought-provoking and well-researched book that delves into the science behind timing and its impact on our daily lives. Pink explores how the timing of various activities, such as decision-making, productivity, creativity, and even rest, can significantly influence our success and well-being. Through a combination of scientific studies, real-life examples, and practical advice, Pink presents a compelling case for understanding and harnessing the power of timing to optimize our lives.


Daniel Pink’s “When” is a captivating exploration of the often-overlooked aspect of timing and its profound influence on our lives. Pink masterfully combines scientific research, anecdotes, and practical insights to provide readers with a fresh perspective on how to make the most of their time.

The book is divided into three parts: The Day, Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, and Synching and Thinking. In the first part, the author explains how our daily rhythms influence our mood, energy, and performance, and how we can use this knowledge to schedule our tasks according to their type and difficulty. For example, he suggests that we should do our analytical work in the morning when we are most alert, our creative work in the late afternoon or evening when we are more relaxed, and our administrative work in between when we are less focused. He also advises us to take regular breaks throughout the day to restore our mental and physical resources.

In the second part, the author examines how the beginnings, middles, and ends of various events and experiences shape our behavior, motivation, and emotions. He shows how we can use these insights to start new projects or habits more effectively, overcome slumps or setbacks in the middle, and finish strong at the end. He also discusses how we can cope with endings that are inevitable or unexpected, such as retirement, graduation, or death.

In the third part, the author explores how we synchronize with others in groups or teams, and how this affects our performance and satisfaction. He argues that synching with others requires a common purpose, a clear code of conduct, and a sense of belonging. He also demonstrates how we can enhance our cognitive abilities by aligning our thoughts and actions with natural or artificial cycles, such as music, metronomes, or breathing.

Pink begins by emphasizing the importance of recognizing our individual chronotypes, which determine our peak performance times during the day. He explains how individuals can be classified into three categories—larks, owls, and third birds—each with their own unique energy patterns. Understanding our chronotype enables us to schedule our most important tasks and activities during our peak performance periods, leading to increased productivity and better outcomes.

The book delves into the science behind breaks and restorative pauses, demonstrating how taking strategic breaks can enhance our productivity, creativity, and overall performance. Pink presents compelling evidence that breaks are not mere indulgences but essential components of a balanced and efficient work routine. He offers practical suggestions on how to structure breaks effectively and provides valuable insights into the optimal duration and timing of these intervals.

Furthermore, Pink reveals the existence of the “trough,” a period of decreased alertness and cognitive functioning that occurs during the day. By understanding this natural dip in energy levels, readers can strategically plan their activities, tackling less demanding tasks during the trough while reserving peak performance periods for more critical endeavors.

Throughout the book, Pink supports his arguments with a wealth of scientific studies, anecdotes, and real-life examples. He effortlessly weaves together research from various disciplines, including psychology, biology, economics, and sociology, to provide a well-rounded and evidence-based exploration of timing. His writing style is engaging and accessible, making complex concepts easily understandable for readers from diverse backgrounds.

Moreover, Pink’s book is not limited to individual timing; it also explores the impact of timing on group dynamics, decision-making processes, and even societal issues. He dives into topics such as the effect of time on teamwork, the importance of synchronizing schedules, and the potential consequences of disregarding timing in various contexts.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its practicality. Pink provides readers with actionable advice on how to apply the principles of optimal timing in their personal and professional lives. He offers tips on scheduling tasks, structuring breaks, optimizing decision-making, and aligning timing with one’s goals and aspirations. These practical takeaways enhance the book’s value and make it a valuable resource for anyone seeking to improve their time management skills.

In conclusion, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” is a compelling and insightful book that sheds light on the often underestimated role of timing in our lives. Daniel H. Pink’s meticulous research, combined with his engaging writing style, ensures that readers gain a comprehensive understanding of timing’s impact on productivity, decision-making, and overall well-being. By implementing the principles and strategies outlined in this book, individuals can unlock their full potential and achieve greater success in all aspects of life.

Final Thoughts:

“When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” is a thought-provoking and practical book that sheds light on the importance of timing in our daily lives. Daniel H. Pink combines scientific research, real-life examples, and actionable strategies to help readers make better decisions, optimize their productivity, and improve their overall well-being. Although the book may have some limitations, it offers valuable insights and tools for those seeking to understand and leverage the power of timing.


I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the science of timing and its impact on our daily lives. Whether you’re a student looking to optimize your study schedule, a professional looking to optimize your work schedule, or simply someone looking to improve your overall well-being, this book has valuable insights and practical advice to offer.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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