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When

The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

By Daniel H. Pink
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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When by Daniel H. Pink
Synopsis

When (2018) combs through around 700 scientific studies to get a better understanding of how big a role timing plays in our lives. Daniel H. Pink sifts through data from the fields of economics, anthropology, social psychology and others, giving the reader a thorough look at why we make the decisions we do, and why we make them when we do.

Key idea 1 of 8

There is an emotional pattern to our daily lives.

People love their daily routines. Day in and day out, we brush our teeth, have a shower, get a cup of coffee, take the dog for a walk, check the mailbox, read the news and so forth. But did you know that, in parallel to these habits, there’s another, subtler pattern to our daily lives?

Researchers at Cornell University looked at Twitter to try and get a sense of the prevailing moods of people during a typical day. By examining 500 million tweets from over a two-year period, they saw a very clear pattern emerge:

There’s a general feeling of positivity that peaks during the morning, drops swiftly in the afternoon and then climbs back up in the evening. This cycle happens every weekday, to pretty much everyone, regardless of race or nationality.

Of course, Twitter isn’t the best gauge for emotional accuracy since it isn’t exactly known for its honesty. And the software the researchers used to scan for words with certain emotional significance can’t pick up on when those words are being used sarcastically; nevertheless, this same pattern has been noticed in other studies, too:

Behavioral scientists, using what’s known as the day reconstruction method (DRM) to go hour by hour through people’s lives, found the same pattern: positivity or happiness levels peak in the morning, plummet in the afternoon and then rebound, or climb back up, and peak again in the evening.

This daily pattern is known as the morning peak, afternoon trough and evening rebound. Likewise, negativity levels show the exact opposite: they’re on the rise in the afternoon and fall in the evening.

What’s interesting is that this pattern has a very direct impact on the work we do. In a separate study that revealed very similar findings, three professors at American business schools analyzed over 26,000 earnings calls – conference calls between a company’s CEO and the primary investors, where they discuss how things have been going and how they expect things to go in the future. These calls often determine whether stock prices rise or fall.

The study showed that the later in the day the calls took place, the worse the “emotional tenor” was, and, as the day went on, the more negative the calls would get. Across over 2,000 public companies, the advice was the same: conduct your earnings calls bright and early in the morning to keep them upbeat and positive.

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