It turns out, some of 2018’s best books are also great for perfecting your New Year’s resolutions. Take your New Year’s resolution to the next level by implementing the strategies in “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by New York Times best selling author, Daniel H. Pink.
“When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink
While this is not the only amazing 2018 book that is great for goal setting, it is certainly noteworthy and insightful. Most books focus on questions of what. What can we do to improve? What did this or that historical figure do? This book focuses on something even more relevant to the new year: when?
This is a lovely topic at this time of year because most of us create long lists of what we would like to improve. We don’t realize that by only taking into account the “what” but not the “when,” we’re shooting ourselves in the foot before we even get off the ground.
That is one reason why about 80% of people lose sight of their New Year’s resolutions by February. But don’t throw your New Year’s goals away.
Pink elucidates how when things are done, far from being arbitrary, can completely transform our performance from terrible to great. Here are some ways you can hack time to accomplish your New Year’s goals.
Hacking time: Find what time of day you are at your peak performance
Time of day greatly impacts people’s performance. For example, in one study Pink cited, Danish kids consistently performed better on tests given in the morning than on tests given later in the day. Even if both tests were the same difficulty level.
While these kids were ages 8 to 15, there have also been studies that suggest teens do better with later start times. Simply put, depending on a number of variables such as age and biology, some people are morning people, some are night people and everyone else is somewhere in between. Pink calls these in between people third birds because they aren’t morning birds or night owls. Most people, it turns out, are third birds.
But whichever kind of bird you are, becoming aware of the time you perform at your best can give you an edge on achieving your goals. An article from HuffPost explains methods for finding your very own personal productivity happy hour.
Try to find what time of day you are at your best and work on your most important goals at that time. Don’t try doing important things when you are on an empty stomach and feel like a grump. If you don’t know what time of day works best for you, experiment. Everyone has times of day when they are more alive. Become aware of this within yourself.
Working after a break increases performance
According to Pink, if you want to excel at your goals, take breaks.
Danish kids not only scored better in the morning, but they scored much higher after a break when their minds were fresh. According to Pink, “Taking the same test after a twenty- to thirty-minute break leads to scores that are equivalent to students spending three additional weeks in the classroom and having somewhat wealthier and better-educated parents. And the benefits were the greatest for the lowest-performing students.”
The same goes for adults as well. Pink describes how judges mete out harsher punishments before lunch. Why? Not because all the most guilty people are tried before meal time. It’s because the judges are tired and hungry. Their blood sugar levels have dipped. When the judge returns after a break, they mysteriously and consistently become more benevolent and merciful. Keep this in mind in your own work.
This may go against our modern intuition. We tend to believe we have to push ourselves to work longer and harder to succeed. But if you want to improve your performance, rather than push yourself harder, consider taking a short break. Then get up and at it again. This will refresh your mind allowing you to handle your emotions better and think more clearly.
Losing sleep and neglecting mental health is a strategy that would work wonderfully, in an alternate universe. No matter how much we may wish it to be so, a human being will never function like a robot. For all robots who are reading this right now, I would also like to point out that the perpetual motion machine is a fantasy that has never been realized. It is against the laws of physics.
Don’t make a New Year’s goal. Make a new month’s goal every month.
Reset your goal daily, weekly, and monthly. Your situation is going to change. Your priorities are going to change. There will be unforeseen obstacles. While it’s good to have a general direction for your goal over the new year, reevaluate your goal every day, week, and/or month. Refocus. Refine your process. Let your goal evolve with your life and experience instead of making it rigid.
Why is this important? One advantage, according to Pink, is that people perform on a U curve over time. They excel at the beginning, dip in the middle, and pick up steam at the end. So set yourself multiple beginnings to make pulses of progress throughout the year, accepting that there will be dips. But you will reaffirm your goal at the first of every month, or week, or whatever milestone works best for you.
Use the slump that naturally comes in the middle as a trigger – an alarm that the end is approaching and you need to kick into gear to reach your goal. When the end of the week or month approaches, put forth an extra burst of effort like a runner at the end of a race. Pink explains that endings have a large effect on our perception. If we end each week, month, year etc. with a bang, we will feel more successful and motivated about our goals going forward.
Timing is everything
It is no coincidence that Pink’s book came out early Jan. 2018 at the start of the new year. As we head into another great new year in 2019, it is a nice time to review Pink’s insights. When you make your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget not only to ask yourself what goals you should set – but when.
By Valorie Broderick