The Secrets of Perfect Timing

Judith Guertin Posted in Getting Organized

If not now, when?

The Secrets of Perfect Timing

I recently revisited a book I read a couple years ago: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink. He extensively studied the science of time. I learned there are times best suited to each task in our lives. You can stop guessing when to do things, and pick the best times to work, eat, sleep, have your coffee, and even quit your job. He stressed we are all different, we all have peak times every day, and they are predictable.

Daniel puts us all in one of three categories he calls types: Larks (morning people), Owls (night owls), their best work starts at 9PM, or Third Birds–this describes most of us who are neither Larks nor Owls. Until now, in my practice, clients fit into types I described as happy morning people, afternoon aficionados, or midnight mavens. 

Key take-aways:

We all have times of day that we are strongest at performing certain types of work (our circadian rhythms). Add to the rhythms, your emotions. Did you know, your emotions run through cycles every day, and these cycles are the same every day. Matching your rhythms to our activities can really boost productivity.  

We need regular breaks and “Nappuccinos” (a very particular type of napping that involves having caffeine before a brief nap.) When you awaken, the caffeine will be active and available to boost your productivity.

You may not always have control over how you spend your working hours, but to the extent you can, your productivity will benefit when you follow your rhythms.

One study cited was from Desktime; a productivity app company that measures what workers do all day. It looks at the Web sites workers visited, the apps they used, their nonproductive time, how long they worked, and many other indicators.

The Desktime study proposes 52 minutes of focused work, followed by a 17-minute break. Why? The workers who followed this method were the most productive 10% of workers. Let that sink in… the most productive 10%! This rhythm of work and rest breaks allows your brain to rest and reset for the next sprint of activity. Interesting indeed!

This might sound familiar to those of you using the Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 of these sessions, you schedule a longer break of 20 minutes. It turns out the Pomodoro timing is like the findings of several studies of attention span. According to these studies, the maximum attention span of the average adult is 20 minutes.

Both strategies share periods of intense focus, a brief rest period, and focusing on one task at a time. Committing to full focus on one project at a time without distractions. No more multi-tasking!

Do you have problems estimating time, planning activities, managing the passing of time, and shifting from one project to another?

Time management is not the problem; the problem is time mismanagement. There are so many distractions: Common challenges are our tedious chores like writing reports, submitting expenses, and preparing for taxes. You think these tasks will take FOREVER! You know, I am exaggerating here, it won’t take forever, it just feels that way.

If you want better productivity, remember: Prior Planning Produces Powerful Productivity.

To gain clarity, I ask you to do two things. First, estimate how long you THINK your tasks will take. I am not asking you to change anything, just make your best estimate. Schedule the tasks on your calendar, and when the time arrives, do the tasks.

Then, compare your planned time (estimate) with your actual time for the task. Was it more or less than you predicted? Surprise! The time for the task is usually less than predicted. A lot less. When you know how long things take, you can plan each week. As you get clearer how long to plan, watch your stress levels, and time spent procrastinating melt away.

Using your calendar is easier when you know how long things take. Practice estimating, especially the boring and routine tasks. For example: You have a report due tomorrow. You plan for one hour, because your calendar blocks are one hour. The time arrives to do this task. You look at the time and start working. When you finish, you check the time again. How long did this report take? By being mindful when planning you are better prepared for the next time you have a similar task. If by observing, you learn you only need 10 minutes, think how much better you can plan next time. How much more can you accomplish? Remember Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Don't plan an hour for a task that takes only minutes.

Commit yourself to estimating and scheduling your tasks. Learn the truth about what you have to do, and how long it takes? Identify your challenging tasks and tackle them bit by bit, or byte by byte, in manageable blocks of time.

What will you do with the “extra time” you find?

Need help? Let’s talk, click here to grab a spot on my calendar.