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Interview with Daniel Pink (Part 2)

Published 8/22/2018

Today we are thrilled to have Daniel Pink on the show, Daniel has four New York Time Best Sellers and Daniel has a wide variety of experience including being a chief speechwriter for Al Gore in the 90s, and has one of the 10 most watched talks on TED talks.

In part 2 of our interview, we're going to talk about Daniel's recent work he's done and what he's excited about in his latest research and dig into his newest book, "When" The scientific secrets of perfect timing.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Have you ever stopped to think about what the best time is to do any particular task? Let's say writing code or working out. What is the most optimum time to do these things? Daniel Pink actually has the answer for you. This is the second part of my interview with Daniel, and we talk specifically about his work dealing with timing. I'm really excited to share this episode with you. I hope you enjoyed it. You are listening to developer Tee. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal on this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose so they can do better work and have a positive influence on the people around them. In today's episode, we're going to get straight into our interview with Daniel Pink. So this is such an important conversation, but I do want to switch gears a little bit and ask you about more recent work that you've done specifically. I want to open up the floor. If you're particularly excited about something that you've been researching recently or some new work that you're doing, I'd love for you to share about that. Well, the latest book that I have is a book called When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It's a book about precisely that, which is timing. We make all kinds of wind decisions in our life. When should you do this kind of work during the day? When should you do that kind of work during the day? When should you take break? When should you exercise? How do beginnings affect us? How do midpoints affect us? How do endings affect us? It turns out there's this very rich body of science across multiple disciplines that give us some evidence, some clues about how to make those wind decisions in a smarter way. When is everywhere? Whether you choose to on purpose or you don't choose to on purpose. If you're doing this intentionally or unintentionally, you're going to do something in some frame of time. Absolutely. And your research is showing that that frame of time actually has an effect on the different things that you do and the outcomes. Huge, huge effect, bigger than we realize. So that's true, not only in terms of time of day, but it's also true in that beginnings exert one influence on our behavior. Midpoints exert another influence. Endings exert yet another influence. So one example that we can bring up very quickly is that we're doing this interview at one o'clock in the afternoon. Perhaps a great time for a discussion like this because it's a little bit of a slump. We aren't having to do a lot of creative output. And I'm kind of giving away a little bit of the punch line of the book here, but I guess there's multiple punch lines. But one of the main themes of the book is that midpoint slump or the afternoon slump. But I'd love for you to share. What do you think was maybe the most surprising revelation that you had when doing the research for this book? The biggest surprise for me was how much our cognitive abilities change over the course of a day. No one ever told me that. You know, I would feel maybe sharper or duller at different times of day. And I always thought that was a character weakness or a sign of laziness or something. And in fact, the evidence tells us that very clearly our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day. They change. They can change in predictable ways. They can change in dramatic ways. And so that to me was just one of the big, big, big, big takeaways. And so your cognitive ability at say 8 a.m. depending on your chronotype, which we can talk about in just a moment. Right. And it is going to be significantly different and not only better or worse, but also characteristically different than it may be in the evening. Yes. So the gist of it is that human beings who typically move through the day in three stages. A peak, a trough, and a recovery. A peak, a trough, and a recovery. Most of us move through in that order. People who are night owls end up moving in a different path with night owls. The main thing is that their peak is much, much later in the day. And what we know is that during the peak, that's when we're most vigilant. So an in vigilance means we're able to bat away distractions. And that's what we should be doing our kind of heads downward work that requires vigilance. And the trough, which for most of us is almost all of us is the middle of the day, that's when we should be doing our administrative work, our performance drops significantly. So we should be doing things that don't require massive creativity or heavy cognitive loads. And then during the recovery, which for most of us is late in the afternoon and early in the evening, that's when our vigilance is down, but our mood is up. So we can do things that require greater mental looseness, like brainstorming. And what the research shows is that you actually perform better if you do the right work at the right time, depending again, depending on your chronotype, do your analytic work in the peak, your administrative work in the trough, and your insight work during the recovery. Do you think people have naturally discovered this for themselves over the years? Great question. Yes and no. I think some people have, and so they've reoriented their schedules. I think other people have a hunch and haven't necessarily acted on the hunch. And so you see things like this. Think about, I forgot what I was going to say. Okay, so think about things like cultures that had a CESTA. There's a logic to that because, again, during that midday, our cognitive abilities wane, our mental acuity wanes, our energy levels drop. And so there's a logic to having that kind of midday break. Not necessarily we should revive that in modern times, but I think people who did that had a sense that, hey, something's happening now, we need to, at this time of day, and we need to do something about it. And meanwhile, a country like Spain got rid of the CESTA about 12 years ago in the name of efficiency. And so we think superficially again that the, oh, wow, the spanners are so lazy. When in fact, it actually might be more in tune with how the body really works. Right. The interesting reality there is that we're comparing, in order to draw that conclusion that the spaniards are lazy, which is, by the way, not the conclusion that we're drawing on this podcast, just clear. We compare to this capital H, hardworking American society that we have that works 9 to 5, if you're lucky, and 7 to 7, if you're normal. And that's, that's, that may be a problem, right? So and this goes back to our previous conversation about efficiency versus humanness. And the interesting thing that seems to be emerging is that it may not actually be as efficient as we thought. True, true. I mean, again, it goes to somewhere where we were talking about earlier in that, you know, it's very different if you have a, if your job is to show up and work on an assembly line, do the same thing over and over again. This is in mental acuity might have an effect, but are not going to have a sizeable effect. If you are a developer, if you are an advertising executive, if you are a management consultant, and you were lying entirely all day long under cognitive ability, knowing when the, that cognitive ability changes and how it changes is going to be key. Absolutely. And your ability to do your job. Yeah. And I think, I think for many developers, what ends up happening is those early hours end up getting, and I'm kind of jumping ahead here and talking about, you know, what we should, what we should ultimately do is a result of this information. But a lot of developers end up spinning the first couple of hours of their day doing their administrative stuff, right? Yeah, which is a bad idea. Terrible idea. And it also seems intuitive to do it that way. To set up our day, we go through all the stuff that needs to be done and try to prioritize. And by the time that we're finished doing that, that's time to go to lunch. Yeah. And that can be problematic, totally. And so what is the way that we may be able to avoid this? I mean, well, the main thing, you know, it's, it's going to vary from person to person. But the main idea is this, that what you want is you want synchrony between your, your type, your task and your time. So when it comes type, we're talking about chronotype and about, that just means what's your propensity is, is it wake up early and go to sleep early or is it a wake up late and go to sleep late? But 15% of us are strong early people, larks, about 20% of us are strong, evening people, owls, about 2 thirds of us are in the middle. And what we know is that about, you know, it's basically you can divide it between owls and non owls. Owls, non owls move through the day, peak trough recovery, peak early trough middle recovery later in the day, owls much more complicated. They tend to hit their analytic peak much, much later in the day. And so what you want is, if your peak is late in the day or your peak is early in the day, you want to do your heads down work that requires vigilance, that is where you don't want to be distracted, you want to do that during your peak. You want to try to do as much of that as you can during your peak. During the trough, when you're at where at or worse, put your administrative stuff in there. And then during the recovery, you can try to steer some of your more iterative kinds of work. And what the research tells us is that time of day alone explains about 20% of the variance and how people perform on cognitive tasks. So that's a big deal. Wow. Yeah. That's a huge deal. And so what does this mean for organizations? How do we, you know, of course this is a, this is perhaps a question for 10 years from an hour, 20 years from now, as work evolves and moves out of that efficiency perspective. Hopefully it will evolve in that way. But how do we organizationally accommodate for this? You know, does it mean that we do, that we move to flex hours? Do we break that nine to five mold and allow people to work in a more suitable way to their chronotype? I think that's part of it. And I also think it's really a question of intentionality that a lot of what we do is unintentional. That is we make decisions. Think about meetings, okay? When we schedule meetings and organizations, the only criterion that we use is availability. We say Jonathan available is Jose available is Maria available and his conference room six L open. And that's it. And we don't say who's going to be at this? Who's going to be at the, yeah, it's logistics and availability. We don't say, oh, what kind of meeting is this? Do we need people to be vigilant? Do we need to be looser? Because we're brainstorming. And we're going to be like, this is purely administrative. Who's going to be there? Is it going to be locked? Is it going to be out people in the middle? We just say, hey, it really doesn't matter. All the only thing that matters is availability. And so we end up making a lot of our win decisions on, you know, in a completely thoughtless, default way. When, in fact, if we made them in an intentional way, we would, we would boost performance considerably. Absolutely. So intentionality around these decisions. I'd love to kind of run through some common kind of activities and we're going to do that right after we take a break for today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by Digital Ocean. With Digital Ocean, you can get started today with a free $100 credit just for being a Developer Tealistener head over to do.co slash tea. That's do is in digital ocean.co slash tea to get started today with that $100 credit. Digital Ocean is the easiest cloud platform to run and scale applications from effortless administration tools to robust compute storage and networking services. Digital Ocean provides an all in one cloud platform to help developers and their team save time when running and scaling their applications. With Digital Ocean, you get predictable and affordable pricing. You can leave the complex pricing structures behind. You'll always know what your business will pay per month with industry leading price performance ratios and a flat pricing structure across all global data center regions. Thanks again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Remember to go to do.sleep. do.co slash tea for $100 worth of credit on digital ocean services. Now let's get back to our discussion on timing the optimum time to do certain activities. So we'll talk about it kind of a universal activity of exercise. So with exercise in time of day, it really depends on what your goals are. So morning exercise seems to be best for certain kinds of goals. So if your goal is to get an enduring mood boost to the day, morning exercise is very good. Exercise, aerobic exercise in particular gives us a mood boost. It actually lasts at decent amount of time. So if you exercise early in the day, you get that mood boost for a big chunk of your day. And exercise late in the day, you'll end up sleeping off some of that mood boost. Morning exercise seems to be slightly better for habit formation. And morning exercise seems to be slightly better for weight loss. Although the evidence on exercise and weight loss, it basically says it's really hard to lose weight. So there's that. Now if you look at exercise later in the day, that has other virtues. So one of the things about exercise later in the day is that people report enjoying it more. And so finding less effortful. And so that can actually aid in habit formation. That's one reason that I typically do my exercise later in the day, late afternoon, early evening. I find morning exercise excruciating. And then later in the day, I find it far, I enjoy it a lot more. The other thing is that morning, a later, late afternoon early evening exercise is better for a morning injury because we have changes in body temperature. Body temperature tends to spike around late afternoon, early evening. And so you're literally more warmed up. And then exercise in the afternoon and early evening seems to be better for certain kinds of performance. Our lung function is higher at that time of day. Our hand eye coordination is better. Our speed is greater. So there are actually disproportionate number of world records in speed events that were made between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time. Wow. That is really effective. And this kind of thing is true for many other activities. Of course, we've handpicked exercise because it is such a universal thing. Hopefully, all of you are listening to the show. You participate in regular exercise. But Daniel, I'd like to ask you at a more personal level, what, you mentioned that you do your exercise in the afternoon. And other things has this research kind of prompted you to do. How have you changed your own behaviors in response to this? Oh, a lot of ways. So for instance, I'm more of a morning person than the evening person. I'm not a full-fledged LARC, but I'm much more early than late. And so I should be doing my analytic work in the morning. And I didn't always do that. And I'm a writer. And so writing is analytic work in the sense that, or writing is at least work that requires high levels of vigilance because the enemy of writing is distraction. So you want to be writing when you're in your least distractive mode. I mean, for writers, the entire universe is conspiring to distract you and prevent you from writing. And so you want to up your odds a little bit that way. And so what I have started doing on writing days is I come into my office, which is the garage behind my house where I'm talking to you right now, from where I'm talking to you right now. And I give myself a word count. And I don't do anything else until I hit that word count. I don't open my email. I don't do those administrative tasks ahead of time, as you mentioned earlier. I don't even bring my phone with me into the office. I just sequester that period of time to do my heads down analytic writing work. And I don't do anything else until I hit my number. And I found if you do that every day, the pages really do pile up. Whereas in previous times, I might have aspired to do that, but I would come into my office and check my email and, oh, I need to clear the decks. If I can just clear out all my email, I'll have a clean slate and I can actually start. And those are just delaying tactics. And so you need to, so that's so did that way. I'm also become, there's a whole body of research on breaks. The science of breaks is where the science of sleep was 15 years ago. It's about to break through the surface. And I was someone who never took breaks. I always thought that breaks were kind of a sign of weakness, work, and session. And in fact, what the science is telling us is that breaks are part of work, not a deviation from work. Part of performance. Yeah. Yeah. Actually, you shared some information, I believe, on your Twitter account. My mother is a teacher and I shared it with her about how having a break right before a test actually improves test scores pretty dramatically. Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And actually, and also taking, stated as a lot of research showing taking state advice tests on the afternoon, decreases performance. Sure. Perfect. There. I mean, if you look at, again, it goes back to the time of day. There's a really important study of the LA unified school district showing that kids who had math in the morning versus kids who had math in the afternoon learn more, learn more math, got higher grades, higher test scores. Yeah. And so again, that's just another one of those examples where we think that these when questions are second, third order questions and they're not, they're, they're first order questions. They're not necessarily, I don't think they're more important than questions of what we do or how we do it. But the evidence is pretty overwhelming that they are as important. Yeah. Pretty prominent. And unfortunately, people had just, have just not gained the intuition for why that is. And hopefully, hopefully your book is going to help turn the tide on this and start discussions that people need to be having. I hope so. I hope you're right. Daniel, I appreciate the time that you've taken with me today. Sure thing, my pleasure. And I have one more simple question for you. If you had 30 seconds of advice to give developers or really anybody in a knowledge working industry, creative industry, what would you tell them? So 30 seconds of work advice? Any kind of advice at all? When I would say, okay, I'll give you one. I mean, I got a lot, but I'll give you one that I've been trying to keep in mind myself. Something I've been trying to work on myself lately, which is, and it's funny because I actually had a conversation. I was on a call earlier this morning where I was mentioning this basically as guidance to myself, which is this, is to assume positive intent. A lot of times when we deal with other people, we assume negative intent. And then we rely on the other people to just prove that they have negative intent. And I found that actually most people don't have negative intent. They really don't. If they have any intent at all, it's generally reasonably positive intent. But I really don't believe the majority of people have negative intent. And so it's actually more, it's better for your relations and it's more efficient if you just assume people have positive intent and let them disprove that. Not everybody has positive intent, but if you start with the assumption that people have positive intent and let them disprove it, that you get a lot more done than starting with the reverse assumption that everybody has negative intent and it's only until they prove that they have positive intent that you're willing to work with them. So assume negative rather than, assume positive rather than negative intent. It's an excellent advice. Doesn't mean that everybody has positive intent. Sure. But I really think the majority of people do. And so if you begin with that presumption and let them disprove that, you're going to get more done. Yeah, perhaps it's more rational that way anyway. You know what, I think it's a really good point. It sounds a little touchy for you. I actually think it's more rational. Yeah, I agree with you completely. I have that. That's excellent advice. Perhaps it's less exciting, less drama filled, but maybe more productive and more. Exactly. Exactly. It's far less like, it is significantly less exciting, but I really do believe that it is significantly more productive. Yeah, excellent advice. Daniel, thank you again so much for your time. And just real quick, where can people go to, first of all, get the book. I know Amazon, of course. Any legitimate bookseller out there from your favorite online bookseller, like Amazon or BN.com, to your favorite local independent store should have this book. When I asked, you can also go to my website, danpink.com. I got a whole resource center of guruvy stuff, a biweekly newsletter, all kinds of stuff. All of which is free. Awesome. Thank you so much, danio. Thanks for having me. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea, my second part of my interview with danpink. If you missed out on the first part, I encourage you to go back and listen to it. There's tons of great discussion in that one. Pretty different from the second episode, actually. Thank you so much for listening to this show. Your listenership really keeps this show alive. So I appreciate each and every download that we receive. We're over 10 million downloads now and we're approaching four years coming up in January of this show. So I appreciate each and every one of those downloads. Thank you again to today's sponsor digital ocean. If you want $100 worth of credit on digital ocean services, just to try things out, head over to dio.co slash tea to get started today. Each week, we publish three episodes of this show and it's easy to get behind. So I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use right now. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.