The Coach's Corner

The importance of timing

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #50

Ever wonder why you aren’t doing something you really want to be doing? You create the space, gear up for the event and then bail, pretty much every single day.

This week, one of my clients was facing this conundrum.

Exercise isn’t fitting into my morning routine,

Joe sighed.

I have it on my calendar but I just don’t seem to get going on it.

After hearing how he organizes his early mornings, I wondered what other time might work to exercise.

Other time? Like NOT in the morning? I hadn’t considered that. I’ve actually got the time in the afternoon when I finish work.

What would happen if you moved your exercise time to the late afternoon?

Well, certainly a better chance of getting my work-out.

Joe recognized what I found to be very revealing in Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink’s research finds that when you make a decision matters. Rather than wondering why you aren’t doing something, or what may be in the way, he uses data to discover that your timing may play the biggest role.

This includes considering the pattern of your day and knowing when you’re most effective, how to use breaks to give you much needed energy and using ‘temporal landmarks’ like the first day of the month, or an anniversary, to start something new.


The importance of timing

Just after the New Year, we learned that my eldest son and his wife are expecting twins in August. Since we live in a different part of the country, we first began to consider how we could bridge the divide and still feel connected.

Then we envisioned what it would look like, and toyed with the possibility of going back and forth to support, spend time and bond with the twins and their 18-month old sister.

While we were spending time digging into these considerations, a number of circumstances shifted and we recognized the best decision would be to relocate sooner, rather than later. It’s as we moved to the when factor that the timing worked itself out.

In my interactions with clients, Pink’s research is indispensable when someone feels stuck in a pattern they’ve been attempting to change without the desired outcome. As with Joe, who discovered he could change the time he schedules to work out with far more success, Pink explores how people’s energy and positivity follows a daily rhythm. It peaks in the morning, goes through a trough period in the afternoon followed by rebound in the evening.

When someone tells me about a pattern that isn’t working and is important to them we begin with how they start their day, how they wind down, and how they conclude their days.

  • We talk about what time of the day they sense they’re most productive.
  • We discover what they do to restore their energy in the afternoon.
  • We note how often they take breaks from their work and return refreshed.


While this may sound obvious, it’s often ground-breaking as they notice when they are most effective at making decisions.

Among Pink’s insights:

Time-of-day has wide implications: earnings calls held in the morning tend to be more upbeat and positive, with negativity deepening in afternoon calls and only recovering after the closing bell.

Innovation and creativity are actually higher in the afternoon, when our energy levels and focus drop; we are less constrained during the afternoon “trough” and more likely to make leaps of insight.

About 21% of us are owls—like Thomas Edison, who was more likely to be found in his laboratory at midnight than at midday. Another 14% are larks who function best in the early morning hours. The rest of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes.


When you make a decision matters

In her synthesis of Pink’s book, 3 Science-Backed Lessons for Perfect Timing, Positive Psychology Coach Jess Hopkins says that everyone has a chronotype, a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influence your physiology and psychology.

You’ve likely heard the terminology “lark” and “owl” used to describe chronotypes, but most people do not fall into either extreme category. In fact, roughly 60-80% of people are “third birds” or a bit of both. Knowing your chronotype is key to understanding how you experience the day and when you are most effective at various tasks.

From this point, make sure you create restorative breaks for yourself in the afternoon.

Becoming more aware of the trough is an important first step in learning to avoid making poor decisions due to bad timing.

And then, Hopkins explains how certain dates help us recalibrate and get motivated.

Temporal Landmarks interrupt attention to day-to-day minutiae, causing people to take a big picture view of their lives and thus focus on achieving their goals. These time markers slow our thinking and allow us to deliberate at a higher level, and to make better decisions.

My takeaway

I know that when I’m doing something that works and brings me joy, enlightenment and peace I will do it again and again. The more I take into account the timing around those activities and deal with any slump, I can jumpstart whatever is taking place.

What a blast to notice it’s the things I love doing that provide this restorative boost: engage with my neighbors, talk with my family and friends across the country and around the world, walk the dog, water my plants and get outside. Adding a 10-12 minute nap, when possible, also does wonders from time to time!

My timing isn’t perfect – but leaning into the science behind it reminds me that when I’m up to it, there is so much more that’s in my control.

Timing is everything.

Said by more people than I can mention.


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