Daniel Pink explores how to become the master of your when. He starts this book by describing the fluctuations of our mood during the day. There is a peak, a trough, and a rebound. In the peaks—which for most of us is in the morning—we are at our sharpest. This is when analytical work is best. Then a trough follows lunch. This is the time to focus on administrative tasks. In the recovery phase, the late afternoon, we are open to insights involving abstract ideas. Then our moods rise again in the evening after work.
There is an exception to this rule, and that is our friends who are “owls.” To determine where you fall on the lark-owl chronotype scale, find out the midpoint between when you wake up and when you go to bed. Or you can take this quiz to find out where you land on the scale.
Surgery errors occur much more often in the afternoon. So do parole revocations in front of a judge. If you can avoid matters that require analytical thought in the afternoon, then do it. That’s not a good time for it.
Breaks are the answer. The most productive people work for 52 minutes straight, then take a 17-minute break. Pink suggests adding breaks to your calendar, just like any other meeting. The ideal break is moving, with a colleague, outside, and entirely detached from discussing work. The best break is a “nappuccino.” It is a cup of coffee followed by a 10-to-20-minute nap. That time avoids sleep inertia that makes you groggy after longer naps. You feel refreshed. Drink coffee before the rest, and the caffeine will kick in 25 minutes later. The best time for your nap is seven hours after waking up. That’s because our worst decisions are made at that time.