YAPClassic: Daniel Pink, How The Most Successful People Structure Their Days

YAPClassic: Daniel Pink, How The Most Successful People Structure Their Days

YAPClassic: Daniel Pink, How The Most Successful People Structure Their Days

When Daniel Pink graduated law school, he was one of three students in his class that graduated unemployed. He tested several career paths but didn’t feel fulfilled in any of them. However, eventually, he realized that what he’d been doing as a side hustle all along was what he should pursue full-time. Now, he’s a bestselling author of seven books that have been translated into 42 languages. In this episode of YAPClassic, you’ll learn about one of Daniel Pink’s New York Times bestsellers, The Science of Perfect Timing, and how to plan your day around your natural peaks and troughs to maximize your productivity.

Daniel Pink is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and thought leader. He has written for several notable publications, and his books cover topics like business, work, creativity, and behavior. He has written for several notable publications, including Fast Company, The Sunday Telegraph, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, Slate, and Wired.


In this episode, Hala and Daniel will discuss:

– Hard questions to ask yourself when picking a career

– How Daniel discovered his love of writing

– Why you should make small pivots instead of taking bold actions

– The three stages of productivity & how to plan your day around them

– The shocking effect of taking breaks throughout the day

– How bias levels change throughout the day

– The best way to take naps

– How exercise affects you in the morning vs. evening

– What day of the week to adopt new habits

– And other topics…


Daniel Pink is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and thought leader. In 2011, he was named one of Thinkers50’s top 50 most influential minds. He was also the host and co-executive of the television series “Crowd Control,” a National Geographic program about human behavior that aired in more than 10 countries. He has written for several notable publications, including Fast Company, The Sunday Telegraph, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, Slate, and Wired.


He is the author of seven books, the latest being The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. His books cover topics like business, work, creativity, and behavior. They have won multiple awards, have been translated into 42 languages, and have sold millions of copies around the world.


LinkedIn Secrets Masterclass, Have Job Security For Life:

Use code ‘podcast’ for 30% off at yapmedia.io/course


Resources Mentioned:

Daniel’s Website: https://www.danpink.com/


Sponsored By:

RobinHood – Visit robinhood.com/PROFITING to claim an unlimited 1% bonus on your assets.

Shopify – Sign up for a one-dollar-per-month trial period at youngandprofiting.co/shopify

HelloFresh – Go to HelloFresh.com/profitingfree and use code profitingfree for FREE breakfast for life

Nom Nom – Go to youngandprofiting.co/trynomnom for 50% off your two-week trial

Coda.io – Head over to coda.io/profiting to try Coda for free

Indeed – Get a $75 job credit at indeed.com/profiting


More About Young and Profiting

Download Transcripts – youngandprofiting.com  

Get Sponsorship Deals – youngandprofiting.com/sponsorships

Leave a Review – ratethispodcast.com/yap


Follow Hala Taha


Learn more about YAP Media Agency Services – yapmedia.io/


[00:00:00] Hala Taha: Young and profiters, we are all about increasing productivity and improving efficiency here at Yap. And one of the best conversations I've ever had about how to do this was my 2019 conversation with Daniel Pink. Daniel is a keynote speaker, thought leader, and bestselling author of seven books, including The Power of Regret and To Sell is Human.

In this Yap Classic, you'll learn about how different times of the day impacts your productivity, how to get over your afternoon slumps, and how to effectively use beginnings, midpoints, and endings to accelerate your success. I've had Daniel on the show twice now, and this was actually my first interview with him, and we always have such a wonderful conversation.

He is by far one of the best productivity experts I've ever talked to. He's got so much amazing research and data and stories. So I know you guys are going to love hearing this episode again. Without further delay, here's my conversation with Daniel Pink.

 we are very excited to have you on the show. You are an expert on so many topics from motivation to perfect timing. And you have such a cool and unique background story that I would love to better understand from doing our research. that you were a young man who went off to law school and then you decided that wasn't for you and then you also had a stint in politics writing speeches for people like Al Gore and then you also decided that wasn't for you.

You became a writer and you achieved massive success. And you've even hosted and produced your own TV show along the way. So help me better understand your story. Walk us through your professional journey thus far and how you found your calling.

[00:01:49] Daniel Pink: Well, I mean, you pretty much summarized it, Hala. I'll derive a lesson from it if there is one first, and then I can talk in more detail if you're interested. Yeah, I think the lesson from it that people eventually realize but don't realize when they're younger is that the path to doing things in your life.

The course of one's life is rarely. Linear. It's rarely predictable. 

[00:02:12] Daniel Pink: one of the things that nobody ever tells us is the importance of figuring out what you don't want to do and what you're not good at.

I think that a lot of people have been fed some nonsense that, Oh, you can be good at anything. You're like, you're so multi talented. And the truth of the matter is, is that most people and certainly me, most things I'm not very good at. I don't do them very well, and I don't enjoy them and that ends up being a really important, Mmm.

Thing to find out and figuring out what to do. So for me, for instance, I went to law school basically as a default risk averse, had good grades and was interested in that realm. And I realized pretty quickly that practicing law, once I've realized what lawyers actually did, it's like, I suck at that, and I don't like it, so I don't want to spend the next X years doing that.

And so that was really helpful. Then I ended up one of three people in my law school class who graduated unemployed. I never practiced law, never clerked for a judge, never did anything like that, because I realized that, hey, this is really not for me. I decided to work in politics because that was something that I was keenly interested in.

I became a speechwriter in a very haphazard way. I didn't set out to do it, I just fell into it in some way. And that was something I was much better at than practicing law, but at the same time, I looked at the work itself and the environment I was in and said, you know what? This is not for me long term.

And what happened was in my story was this, and maybe there's a lesson in it for people there is that if you go back in time to when I was in college, all the way through into jobs that I very demanding jobs that I had here in Washington, working in politics throughout that period. And we're talking. 15 years maybe the whole time I was quote unquote writing on the side So when I was in college when I was in law school, I was writing articles and columns for newspapers and magazines Even when I was working I was writing articles and essays and things for Magazines even in some of the jobs that I had where I couldn't get paid for outside work Understandably if you're working in the federal government, I was still doing and I was doing it for free and It finally dawned on me at a certain point that what I was doing on the side Was what I was good at and what I should be doing.

And so for me, the dual lessons of this are one, figure out what you're not good at. Because that's going to be a very wide universe of things and try to avoid that. And two, instead of trying to find your passion or think too much, just sort of pay attention to what you do and what you do offers a window into who you are.

[00:04:43] Hala Taha: think that's really good advice. And what advice would you give to our listeners who are out there, who are doing something that they're not entirely sure if this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and who might be too afraid to pivot into the next thing. Maybe they think they're too old to switch careers.

[00:04:59] Daniel Pink: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I think there are two questions embedded in there as I'm hearing it. One of them is not knowing how to pivot in some ways, but the other one is the fear of being quote unquote too old to do something. And what I've seen in my own life and in observing other people is that feeling of being too old.

Always is laughable retrospectively So if you look at somebody like me, all right, so 20 years ago, I was 30 Looking back at age 30 if I had said at age 30, and I probably thought at age 30 Oh man, I'm too old to X, Y, or Z. Looking back on that right now is laughable. Like I would laugh at my earlier self.

And I think that me at 70 would laugh at me today. Imagine me at 70, looking back at me today saying, Oh, I'm too old to. I don't know, write a play. I'm too old to produce a television commercial, whatever. I think 70 year old me would look back on me today and laugh again. So I think that's a way to think about that.

Leaving aside things that require massive physical prowess, all right? So at age 50, the odds of me playing in the National Basketball Association are remote, right? But, but beyond that, I think that feeling like you're too old is stupid. So understandable, but misplaced. So the folks that you're got to listen to me 20 years from now, looking back on yourself, you will say, my God, the idea that I was too old is laughable.

So cut fade out. Now, I think the harder question is. The question about pivoting, and I think it's really, really hard. And when things are really, really hard like that, my advice always is to start small. I think that small experiments, small steps, are better than big moves and bold leaps. So what does that mean?

Let's say that you're working as a management consultant, and you say, you know what? I actually don't want to be a management consultant for the rest of my life. I'm 33 years old, and what I really want to do Is maybe become a teacher. Wow. How do I go about doing that? I wouldn't quit your management consulting job and go become a teacher right there.

What I would do is I would do smaller things. I would find five teachers at various levels who you know through your own network or One degree of separation, call them up, take them out for coffee and say, what's it really like to be a teacher? Have that conversation. Then maybe what you could do instead of quitting your job is maybe teach an evening course at a college, maybe tutor, maybe teach on a weekend.

That is. Take small steps and small experiments in the direction that you think you might want to be headed. Yeah, the advantage of that is that it's doable. What's daunting is I'm gonna quit my job at Deloitte, Accenture, whatever. Give up my salary and then go out and look for a teaching job. I think that's actually, most people wouldn't want to do that.

Yeah, but taking the smaller steps and the experiments allow you to help figure out what it is you actually want to do. What I'm saying isn't exactly revelatory. It's it's the same thing. It's like hey, let's say that my couch potato And I ultimately want to run a 10 miler. I don't just get out of my couch, off of my couch and start running 10 miles.

You know what I do? The first thing I do is I take a walk around the block. Yeah. Then I take a walk around two blocks. And then over time I can run that 10 miler. 

[00:08:13] Hala Taha: I think that's really great advice. It's sort of like dip your toes in the water, make sure you actually like the new field that you want to get into before you go full force and make sure you're actually good at it and you can make money so you can sustain yourself.

I think that's great advice. 

So let's get into our main topic of the show. I really want to get into all your research and insights regarding time. 

 So your latest book came out this year and it's called when the scientific secrets of perfect timing. So what was your motivation behind writing this 

[00:08:44] Daniel Pink: book? Frustration more than anything else. I was frustrated because I was making all kinds of timing decisions in my own life.

So I'm talking to you from my office in Washington DC. My office is a refurbished garage behind my house. So every day I come out here and I make decisions about when to do things. When in the day should I do my writing? When in the day should I do my interviews? When should I exercise? More broader, episodic questions of timing, 

When should I start a new project? When should I start an experiment? When should I abandon an experiment that's not working? And I was making these decisions in a very sloppy way. That was frustrating to me. I wanted some guidance in how to make these decisions. I looked around for it. It didn't exist.

And that got me curious about whether there was any research on this question of timing, because the last several books I'd written had looked at different bodies of social science. To say, what does it tell us about the human condition and how can we apply some of those insights in our work and our personal lives?

And so I started looking around to see if there's any research on timing, and there was a huge amount, more than I ever imagined, except it had this peculiar quality to it. It was splattered all over the place. So there was research in social psychology and in economics, but there was also research in microbiology.

There was research in an entire field called chronobiology. There was research in linguistics and anthropology and in many of the medical sciences. And it was curious to me is that all these disciplines were asking very similar questions, but they weren't talking to each other. So I said, if I can stitch together the findings from these disparate disciplines, maybe what I can do is reveal some of the evidence based, scientific based ways.

To make better, smarter decisions about when to do things, when to do things during the day, when to do things to some extent during a year, when to do things during a life cycle, and even things more episodically about, what's the importance of beginnings? What are the importance of endings? What are the importance of midpoints?

Well, how do teams coordinate in time? So out of that frustration, frustration turned to curiosity, curiosity turned to two years of. a lot of research, and then that in turn turned into the book. 

[00:10:49] Hala Taha: Yeah, the book is jam packed with so much useful information, and it's really funny how we don't really consider the issue as when, as seriously as we take issues of what, and really thinking about when we should make certain decisions, what time of day we should do certain work is really interesting.

So I think my listeners will find a lot of value in this. So let's begin with how the different times of day impact our productivity. You say that time of day day explains 20 percent of the variance of how people perform and our cognitive abilities change during the 16 hours or so that we're awake.

And in your book, you outline three stages of the day everyone goes through in terms of performance. You say it's peak, trough, and low. and recovery. Could you walk us through these stages and explain what type of work is best suited for 

[00:11:37] Daniel Pink: each? Great. So you got it exactly right. The big idea here is that our brain power doesn't remain constant over the course of a day.

It changes. It changes in material ways, the best time to do something depends on really what you're doing. And so here's what we know. What we're looking for here is something called, that psychologists call, the synchrony effect. What you want to do is you want to line up Your type, your task, and your time, your type, your task, and your time.

Now, by type I mean something called chronotype, which is a term from the field of chronobiology. Mm-Hmm. chronobiology, chrono time biology, study of life. It's a longstanding field of research. Spawned a few no ballets. And what chronotype is the scientific way of talking about are you a morning person or are you an evening person.

And what we know is that about 15 percent of us naturally wake up early and go to sleep early. We're larks. About 20 percent of us wake up late naturally, wake up late and go to sleep late. We're owls. And then about two thirds of us are in the middle. Oversimplified by a tad, but in the name of clarity, is let's think about the world of owls and non owls.

Owls and non owls. So about 80 percent of us. Move through the day in precisely the order that you said peak trough recovery peak early in the day Trough in the middle of the day recovery later in the day. during the peak Which for 80 percent of us is early in the day. For owls, it's much later in the day.

For owls, they hit their peak early evening, mid evening, late evening. Very, very different chronotype. Different way of moving through the day. During our peak, that's when we're most vigilant. And vigilance means we're able to bat away distractions. So during the peak, we should be doing what psychologists call our analytic work.

Which simply means work that requires heads down focus and attention. Writing a report, analyzing data, carefully going over the steps of a strategy. That kind of work we do better during the peak, which for most of us is early in the day. Now, during the trough, that's mid to late afternoon. That's a terrible time of day for people.

There are huge decrements in performance. We see it in studies of students performing on standardized tests. We see it hugely in the healthcare arena. Where doctors and nurses perform very, very differently at that time of day versus earlier in the day. We see juries making different decisions when they deliberate that time of day versus earlier in the day.

So during the trial, we want to do stuff that doesn't require a massive amount of brainpower or creative thinking. And so that's, you know, administrative things, answering routine emails, filling out expense reports, et cetera, et cetera. Then finally the recovery. Late in the afternoon, early in the evening.

Now for most of us, 80 percent of us, here's what happens during the recovery. Our mood follows this peak trough recovery pattern. So our mood goes up early plummets in the middle and then recovers later in the day. So late in the day, 80 percent of us have rising mood and we have lower vigilance though.

So we're, we're in a good mood, but we're not as vigilant as we were earlier in the day. That is actually a very potent combination for cognitive tasks that require some kind of looseness. So solving non obvious problems, iterating new ideas. Brainstorming is a good example of that. You want to be a little bit looser.

And so to make a long story longer, we should be doing our analytic work during our peak, which for most of us is early in the day, for owls much, much later in the day. We should be doing our administrative work. during the trough, which is the early to mid afternoon for almost all of us. And then we should be doing our insight work, as psychologists call it, iterative, looser, creative, brainstorming kind of work late in the afternoon and early in the evening.

[00:15:24] Hala Taha: You know, I really love this because this is something that is totally under our control.

We can't really improve how smart we naturally are, but we can control the time we take a test, right? And getting an improvement of 20 percent is really nothing to sneeze on. I really want to bring this lesson home to my listeners. So you have a very interesting story about how time of the day impacted scores in a Danish school.

[00:15:55] Daniel Pink: Could you share that? Yeah, no, that's a great piece of research, and it's not only Danish schools, it's a set of multiple schools throughout Denmark, and here's the story. It's a piece of research that was led by Francesca Gino at Harvard University, and here's what happened. So in Denmark, students take standardized tests, as they do here in the District of Columbia, and the rest of the United States.

In Denmark, students take these standardized tests on computers. However, typical Danish school has more students than computers.

So on testing day, everybody can't take the test at the same time. So students are randomly assigned to take the test either early or late. And so Francesca Gino and two Danish researchers, as I said, looked at two million Danish test scores to see whether time of day had a role in the students test scores.

And what they found was just remarkable, that students who took the test in the afternoon versus the morning had significantly lower scores. They scored as if they had missed two weeks of school. Wow. Yeah, that's an appropriate wow, because that's crazy when you think about it. So first of all, it calls into question, You have this standardized tests are a policy making tool.

And so you have this policy making tool that says, wait a second, there's this massive difference between early test takers and late test takers. Maybe this tool isn't as effective as we think. What's also alarming about that is. You know, imagine if the school or teacher is going to make a decision about a particular student based on our standardized test scores, what if that student had been randomly assigned to a different time of day, they might have scored differently.

Yeah. And this is part of the point you made earlier, Hala, about it just like there's a massive amount of evidence showing our brain power does not remain static as the day unfolds. We perform differently at different times of day and those differences. Yeah, 

[00:17:41] Hala Taha: we don't always have control in terms of like the time we have to take a test, right?

Right. When we're an adult, we can kind of work out when we want to do certain work, things like that. But in terms of like a student, you don't really have the options. So can you talk about how breaks can kind of counteract 

[00:17:58] Daniel Pink: this? You're exactly right. I mean, that's the breaks are the answer to this. And one of the things that we see, and I was surprised by this research.

So I have a chapter in this book about. The hidden pattern of the day, which is what we've been talking about. Peak trough recovery, how our performance varies as different times of day. And I said, well, I'll write a little bit about breaks. And so as I outlined it, I said, okay, I'll do like maybe, you know, you know, two pages about breaks.

And I started looking at the research and then ended up writing an entire chapter about breaks because the research was so powerful and persuasive. And essentially what we know about breaks is this. We have woefully undervalued them. Breaks are far more important to our performance than we, than we realize.

We should be taking more breaks, and we should be taking certain kinds of breaks. And so that ends up being a remedy for some of the downdraft in performance, especially during that trough period. And so in the case of the Danish students, it was pretty remarkable. They went back and said, okay, what if we gave these students a 20 to 30 minute break to have a small snack and to run around on the playground before taking the afternoon test?

They do that. Boom. Scores go back up. Scores are actually higher than in the morning. Um, and so we see this in all kinds of other realms. There's an important study, led by among others, Katie Milkman at University of Pennsylvania showing a big decline in hand washing among people who work in hospitals during the afternoon and a remedy for that, a way to get hand washing back up.

It happened to be a large sample of nurses to give the nurses more breaks. And actually breaks with other nurses. And so what we know about breaks at a top level is that, and I've changed, I totally changed my view on this myself is that breaks are. Part of our performance. They're not a deviation from our performance.

They're part of our performance. They are integral to our performance. And we also have evidence of the right kinds of breaks to take what we know, and it's very actionable. We know that with breaks, something is better than nothing. So even a super short. break is better than no break at all. We know that outside is better than inside.

So taking a break outside is more restorative than taking a break inside. We know that social is better than solo that breaks with other people are more restorative than breaks on our own. And this is true even for introverts. We know that moving is better than stationary. So you're better off. Actually being in motion, physically moving rather than being sedentary.

And we know that fully detached is better than semi detached. So a break has to be a break. It isn't going out for a walk, checking your email. And so when we look at those design principles, exactly as you're saying, we can exert a little bit more control over things. So here's an example because of my schedule, I had to talk to you at a suboptimal time today, one o'clock.

You and I are talking as at 1 PM Eastern time, that's a suboptimal time for me. So I knew that. And so what did I do before I got on this call? I went on and took a walk. I just took a walk around the block before I went to do this, because I knew that if I just came from doing one hard task. Where I was fading and then immediately had to talk to you.

It wasn't going to be very good for either one of us. And so simply by taking that small break, it had to be by myself. So I missed out on the social part, but you know, outside in motion, fully detached, I probably, I was slightly more. I 

[00:21:18] Hala Taha: wish I did that because I'd probably be more on point right now. But as you're talking, the perfect break sounds like, you know, taking a walk outside with your coworker for like 10, 15 minutes and not talking about work.

So all my listeners out there take that as a hint, start to schedule some of those breaks in your day and let your coworker know that like, Hey, like I don't want to talk about work. Let's talk about something else. Because often, you know, when you do take a break with your coworker, you end up just venting about work.

I feel like. 

[00:21:46] Daniel Pink: Right. Right. I think that's good. And you know, and the thing is, is like. You still want to talk to your co workers, like inadvertent contact where you're walking to the water fountain to the bathroom or something. Hey, what are you working on? That's all good. But we have to be much more conscious about taking these breaks.

And this is the thing. I'm your hallelujah chorus on that, Hala, in part because I have the zeal of a convert. Because I was someone who very rarely took breaks because I thought I would get more done if I powered through. I also thought in some weird puritanical way that it was morally virtuous not to take breaks.

That I was a better person somehow for, you know, denying myself. Yeah, you worked harder that day. That's just total nonsense. Breaks are massively important. And if your listeners followed your guidance there, and every day they took, as you say, a 10 or 15 minute walk outside with someone they like. I would be stunned if you didn't see some kind of uptick in performance.

[00:22:44] Hala Taha: Yeah. to quote you verbatim. Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangles of our day across many domains.

It represents a danger zone for productivity, ethics and health. Could you elaborate on this and just show us how bad afternoon slumps 

[00:22:59] Daniel Pink: can be? Okay, so let's talk about health care because it's just a disaster. So I mentioned that. We see big declines in handwashing in hospitals during the afternoon, but it goes well beyond there.

So what we see is doctors are far more likely to prescribe Unnecessary antibiotics and afternoon appointments versus morning appointments. Uh, there was just a paper that came out in the beginning of the fall that showed the same pattern with opioids. Doctors are far more likely to prescribe opioids in afternoon appointments versus morning appointments.

We look at things like anesthesia errors. Anesthesia errors are four times more likely at 3 p. m. versus 9 a. m. If you look at things like colonoscopies, doctors find twice as many polyps, they're twice as thorough in morning appointments as they are in afternoon appointments for the exact same population.

So, So for me, one of the personal takeaways for me and my family from doing this research is that basically nobody in my family is allowed to go to make a discretionary hospital visit or an important doctor appointment in the afternoon, period, full stop. Yeah. One of our daughters had to have. She, she's in college and came back for, for winter break and had to have her, she had to have her wisdom teeth extracted and she had to have anesthesia to have her wisdom teeth extracted.

And we basically said, I don't care how inconvenient the particular day of the week is, you are only taking the 8 a. m appointment because you're undergoing general anesthesia. So again, it's exactly as you said earlier, Hala, we, we focus on what, okay, what procedure needs to get done, but we discount the, when, when are they doing it?

And the, when. Matters. 

[00:24:33] Hala Taha: Yeah. So remember, always go to the doctor in the morning. How about ethics? I thought this was so interesting. The fact that people like are more likely to lie and cheat in the afternoon. Can you talk about that? 

[00:24:44] Daniel Pink: Yeah, what we see there is kind of interesting. There's some nuance on that one.

Let me make a broader point here. So we talked about for most of us, the morning is when we're most vigilant. Okay. We're most vigilant. That is what we're able to do is we're able to battle away distractions. We're less likely to take short cognitive shortcuts of any kind. So if you think about things like bias is a cognitive shortcut, cheating is a cognitive shortcut, right?

And so what you see is that people make different moral decisions in the afternoon versus the morning. The researchers who've uncovered this call it the quote unquote morning morality effect. That is because we're more vigilant in the morning. We're less likely to make ethical lapses. However, the nuance of this is that other researchers subsequently followed that up and said, yes, that's true for morning people and for a lot of people in the middle, but for owls, evening types, people who wake up late and go to sleep late, it's the reverse owls are actually more likely to make moral lapses.

in the morning than later in the day, because owls are more vigilant later in the day. But again, think of this idea of cognitive shortcuts. There's a very alarming piece of research. It's an experiment where they did the following. They gave the participants in this experiment a set of facts. They said, you participants are a jury.

And they gave people a set of written facts about a particular criminal defendant. So think about two groups. Half the groups get A set of facts, the other half the group gets the same set of facts. For the first group, the defendant's name is Robert Garner. For the second group, the defendant's name is Roberto Garcia.

So same set of facts, the only thing different is the name of the defendant. When jurors deliberated in the morning, they rendered the same verdict for Garner and Garcia. However, get a new group of participants, same deal, same set of facts. One defendant's name is Robert Garner. The other defendant's name is Roberto Garcia.

When jurors deliberated in the afternoon, they were more likely to exonerate Garner and convict Garcia on the exact same set of facts. Because people were less vigilant and they're taking these in this case insidious cognitive shortcut of racial and ethnic bias So 

[00:26:57] Hala Taha: interesting It's alarming and yeah, I was just gonna say it's so interesting and alarming Speaking of you know overcoming these afternoon slumps You talked about breaks before.

Another way to overcome an afternoon slump after reading your material, I learned, is napping. And it turns out that breaks and napping are not just for kids. They're also very useful for adults. And apparently there's a right and a wrong way to nap. For me personally, I feel very groggy when I nap, unless I go for like three, four hours, and then I'm not really sure that actually qualifies as a nap at the end of the day.

So what is the right way to nap in your opinion? 

[00:27:34] Daniel Pink: Well, it's not only my opinion, it's what the research says, and you're spot on, Hala, that there is, here, once again, I'm a sinner. I never liked napping. I would nap every once in a while, I would wake up feeling terrible. And the reason I discovered is that I was doing it wrong, exactly as you say.

What the research tells us is that the ideal nap is exceptionally short, exceptionally short, between 10 minutes and 20 minutes long. You nap shorter than 10 minutes, you don't get much of a benefit. You nap longer than 10 minutes, you get a benefit from the nap. But if you stay within that 20 minute range, this is between 10 and 20 minutes, you can get the benefits of the nap without the grogginess that comes from napping longer than that.

And so, so there is this sweet spot of 10 to 20 minutes, all kinds of research showing that, yeah, it's actually a, a boost mood. It boosts mental acuity. Yeah. It makes people feel better without the downside of that grogginess, which is known among chronobiologists as sleep inertia. 

[00:28:29] Hala Taha: Yeah. But 10 to 20 minutes sounds so short.

I know. And I noticed you didn't really talk about meditation in your book as an alternative. How do you feel about meditation? Do you feel like it's useful? Do you do it? And do you think that naps are more beneficial than meditation would be? 

[00:28:45] Daniel Pink: That's a great question. I have tried meditation in the past.

I haven't stuck with it, unfortunately. Same. My read of the research on meditation is that it is very, very good for us. Meditation is powerful. It is not woo woo. It is a absolutely enhancing of our subjective well being, of our mood, of our mental sharpness, no question about it. I'm not sure whether a nap or meditation is, one is more valuable than the other.

I have no idea. But the research to me is overwhelmingly Pro meditation. Yeah, so 

[00:29:18] Hala Taha: tell us about the nappuccino. It's the way to 10x your nap Once 

[00:29:21] Daniel Pink: again, the research gives us some ideas on how to actually turbocharge the nap The ideal nap is as follows. I've actually started doing this occasionally. So again, I told you I'm here in my office in Washington, DC I got a chair right behind me as I'm sitting here.

So it's a chair. It's a fairly comfortable chair I've got a little ottoman and so I'll sit in that chair And I will set my phone alarm for 25 minutes, phone timer for 25 minutes. I will close my eyes. I will put on noise canceling headphones and get ready to go to sleep. But before that, I would chug a cup of coffee.

I won't enjoy it. I'll just. Literally, brew a cup of coffee, plop some ice cubes into the mug, and just guzzle it. And then I will close my eyes, start my 25 minute countdown timer, and at this point, I can usually fall asleep in, say, 10 minutes or so. And in that sense, like meditation, that is, like meditation is easier the more you do it.

I think napping, people get better at napping and being able to fall asleep quickly. So I can fall asleep, let's say I fall asleep in 10 minutes. My alarm goes off in 25 minutes. That means I've gotten a 15 minute nap right in the middle of that sweet spot. But here's the thing. Remember that cup of coffee that I downed right before turning on my countdown timer?

It takes about 25 minutes for caffeine to enter our bloodstream. And so at the moment I'm waking up without that grogginess, without that sleep inertia, I'm getting a second hit of caffeine entering my bloodstream. And so this technique, as you say, is known as a nappuccino. Sounds awesome. I 

[00:30:48] Hala Taha: can't wait to try 

[00:30:49] Daniel Pink: that.

Definitely try it. Try it a few times. It's surprisingly awesome. 

 Okay. So we talked about the first two different stages. Let's move on to the recovery state and the phenomenon of the inspiration paradox, which is the idea that innovation and creativity are the greatest when we are not at our best in respect to our circadian rhythms.

[00:31:17] Hala Taha: Yeah. Tell us about that. What should we be doing during this recovery state? 

[00:31:20] Daniel Pink: So what we know is that we have this peculiar combination. Our mood oscillates. And we see this in a lot of research on people's self reports of their mood. We see it reflected in big data analysis of people's Twitter feeds. So mood goes up, mood declines, and then mood recovers.

Again, that's for 80 percent of us. Late in the day, early in the evening, our mood is back up. However, as I said before, our vigilance is not back up. Our vigilance is, is actually rather low, but that combination, that kind of looseness is actually really important. And let me give you an example of this, make it make more sense.

Um, let's think about something like brainstorming. Let's say you and I are part of a. seven person team that's trying to brainstorm some ideas for, I don't know, a new product or a new marketing campaign or something like that. We've all been in brainstorming sessions where someone tosses out an idea and someone else says that's stupid.

That'll never work. Brainstorming isn't effective if people are hypervigilant, if they're hyper analytical, what you want is you want some kind of looseness and so you can impose that looseness in some ways with the rules of brainstorming. But you can get even a greater boost if people's mental states, their cognitive states are looser rather than tighter.

And so doing things like brainstorming then is at that time of day for 80 percent of us is better. And you see this in some research again, where you give, let's take someone like me. All right. So I test on the. Chronotype scale, I test as not a full fledged lark, but pretty larky. So you give people very common chronotype.

And so you give people like me an analytic problem, and I'm more likely to get it right in the morning. and wrong in the late afternoon. Okay? You give an owl that same analytic problem, they're more likely to get it wrong in the morning and right later in the afternoon. So, now, you give me a more creative problem, alright, a problem where you have to, say, come up with 50 unusual uses of a brick or a paperclip, or something that's about iteration, the kinds of problems that don't bend to mathematical logic, the sorts of things that require Aha moments and insight and divergent thinking someone like me is worse at that in the morning But better late in the afternoon, because I'm less vigilant, I'm less tight, I'm focusing more expansively, and I'm in a decent mood.

So that's sort of the inspiration paradox. So for a lark like me, or a larky person like me, the paradox is that for creative, iterative kinds of things, I'm actually better off doing them later in the day. Rather than earlier in the day. 

[00:33:55] Hala Taha: Hmm. From my understanding, it's also better to like work out in the evening or workouts seem easier in the evening as well, so 

[00:34:01] Daniel Pink: that's a great point too.

So there are virtues of early exercise and later exercise, and it really depends on your goals. So morning exercise is better for some things. It seems to be better for weight loss. In fact, there's something literally that I read this morning showing that exercising on an empty stomach is actually.

better for weight loss and conditioning than exercising after eating. So morning exercise is better for weight loss. Morning exercise is better for habit formation. And, and I think that's a very pedestrian reason is that people are more likely, I think, to get interrupted at 7 a. m. than at 5 p. m. Yeah. And then morning exercise It's a great virtue of morning exercises that aerobic exercise, but even strength training gives you a pretty significant mood boost, pretty enduring mood boost.

And so you exercise early in the day, you're going to get that mood boost for a long time during the day. You exercise late in the day, you get your mood boost, but you end up sleeping away some of it. So that's the virtue of morning exercise. Afternoon exercise is better for other kinds of things. So one of them, as you said, is people reported feeling less effortful.

My hypothesis, is that a lot of this is related to body temperature because our body temperature changes over the course of a day. Our body temperature peaks in the late afternoon and early evening. So people find it less effortful. I certainly do. It's better for avoiding injury. And I think that's the same reason.

Similar reason that we're literally more warmed up. And also, there's some interesting improvements in performance late afternoon and early evening. Our lung function is higher. Our hand eye coordination is a little bit better. And there's some interesting improvements on, on speed late in the afternoon and early in the evening.

So really depends on what your goals are. 

[00:35:34] Hala Taha: Totally. Very cool. 

So let's move on to time besides just the hours of the day that we should be doing things in a more broader sense. You also talk about beginnings and endings. So for context for my listeners, can you explain what social and personal temporal landmarks are and how we can use them to motivate us and construct better beginnings?

[00:35:54] Daniel Pink: Sure. So temporal landmark is. as follows. Think about a physical landmark. So, a physical landmark is something that exists in space that helps you make your way, right? So, if you're trying to find something, you're trying to make your way from point A to point B, and you're looking for a particular landmark that says, oh, I'm close to point B.

So, the same thing happens in time, that there's certain dates that operate as temporal landmarks that help us make our way. In particular, there's a date, and this is also research done by Katie Milkman at Penn, whom I mentioned earlier, she found that certain dates operate as a particular kind of temporal landmark, and that is What she calls fresh start dates.

Those are dates where we basically trick ourselves and say, we open up what you can think of metaphorically as a fresh ledger on ourselves. So we say, you know, old me always ate junk food, but new me we're born on this day, opening up a fresh ledger is not going to eat junk food anymore. And so what this means is that is that certain dates operate as those temporal landmarks, as fresh start dates.

So this is why you're more likely to start a behavior change and therefore more likely to sustain it by starting it on a Monday rather than on a Thursday, by starting it on the first of the month rather than the 11th of the month. Those are social things. We all share. The first of the day of the month is the same for me as it is for you.

The 11th day of the month is the same as it is for me as it is for you. But they're also personal temporal landmarks. So you're better off starting a behavior change, say, on the day after your birthday than one week before your birthday. But that's personal. Your birthday and my birthday, you know, are probably not the same.

Yeah. And so using these temporal landmarks. Can be a way to essentially reboot and make a fresh start. 

[00:37:38] Hala Taha: And then how about in a business setting, like how would you use a temporal landmark to motivate a team or, you know, pivot after something happens? Yeah. So 

[00:37:45] Daniel Pink: again, you can use something like the beginning of a new quarter to say, you know, our last quarter wasn't that great.

But, you know, here it is, a new quarter, day one of a new quarter, let's reboot and start again. Or you can use some kind of anniversary, like, you know, this company was founded three years ago on this date. We're starting year four. This is a fresh start date. And so you can use those kinds of things to basically, 

I like to think of it as a reboot.

The metaphor that the researchers use is this idea of, as I said, of a ledger. If you think about an old fashioned ledger, you. You know, an old fashioned print ledger. You turn the page and there before you is a fresh ledger, untainted by any of the things that have gone on before. You can write. a new on that fresh ledger.

So you can use again with businesses shared social, you know, first day of the quarter, you know, that those kinds of things, first day of the month, but you can also use milestones within the company as well. This is all 

[00:38:42] Hala Taha: such great advice. So I really hope that everybody out there is absorbing it and we'll use it in practice.

Let's talk about midpoints. They have very peculiar effects on how we do what we do. Can you talk about the different nuances and how midpoints can both stall us and stimulate 

[00:38:56] Daniel Pink: us? Yeah, so that's exactly right. Sometimes they drag us down. Sometimes they fire us up. And so sometimes when we get to the midpoint of something, we're for lose motivation, we're lose interest.

Our motivation sags other times it has the opposite effect. So if you look at research on wellbeing over the life cycle, what you have is you have. a u shaped curve of well being over the life cycle where people in their 20s and 30s are fairly Satisfied people in their 40s become less satisfied people in the 50s, you know are at the bottom of that U it's not a midlife crisis, but it's a sort of a shallower you but then people in their 60s 70s and 80s are far more happy than they were.

So it's shaped like a U. So we see a dip in the middle of all kinds of things, in people's adherence to standards, in their willingness to practice certain religious rituals, et cetera, et cetera. At the same time, what you see is you see midpoints having, in some cases, a different effect on people that operate as a spark.

So There's a researcher named Connie Gersick, who's looked at how teams behave, and she found that if you give a team a certain amount of time for a project, during the first part of the project, they won't do very much. But there's a moment in the course of the project when they throw off old routines and really get started.

And what she has found in her research is that that happens. In an eerie way at the exact temporal midpoint. So you give a team 31 days to do something, they start getting going in earnest at day 16. You give a team 17 days to do something, they start getting going at day 9. And so you also see research in analysis of basketball data showing that in general, the NBA, at least teams that are ahead at halftime are more likely to win the game.

However, the exception to that rule is that teams that are behind by one point at halftime are actually more likely to win than teams that are ahead by one point. And so. I guess the lesson we derive from this is that unlike beginnings and unlike endings, midpoints are often invisible. We don't see them, and yet they seem to exert this kind of force on us.

And so, the key with midpoints is to be aware of them to make them visible. And then once you do that, you can use them to wake up rather than roll over. And one way to effectuate that is to imagine that you're a little bit behind. 

[00:41:09] Hala Taha: Yeah, that's very interesting. And I could imagine like a project manager leading a team having like midpoint review going like, here's all the things that we have left to do and kind of like exerting pressure on the team, healthy pressure and stress to get things 

[00:41:23] Daniel Pink: done.

Yeah. And just saying, Hey, we're a little bit behind. And the idea of being a little bit behind is really interesting because there's experimental evidence showing that if you take a midpoint of something and at the midpoint people are way ahead, they actually. Don't improve their performance if they're way behind they can become complacent and give up But if they're a little bit behind they really bring it during that second half.

[00:41:45] Hala Taha: Yeah. Okay. We're starting to run out of time I do want to just cover ending. So how do endings typically impact our 

[00:41:52] Daniel Pink: behavior? Oh gosh, so many different way Endings have a big effect on our lives. They have a big effect on our memory so we're more likely to we evaluate entire experiences based heavily on how they end and Rather than on the totality of the experience or the average of the experience is a very well known phenomenon in psychological science Endings can help us energize.

So when we see the end of something we end up kicking a little bit harder so this is some intriguing research from Adam Alter at NYU and Hal Hirschfield at UCLA showing that People are most likely to run their very first marathon at ages 29, 59, right, when they get to the end of a decade. Endings can help us, in some ways, focus on what's really important to us, that help us sort of edit our lives.

And so what you see across the life cycle, this is the research of Laura Carstensen at Stanford, is that over the course of time, we end up starting out our lives with, say, not a huge number of friends, and then our number of friends grows throughout the middle of our life, but then later in life, say 60 and beyond, the final third of act three of our lives, we actually have fewer friends, which seems like a sad story, but Carstensen found that what's going on here is not sad at all.

What it means is that people have essentially shed The outer layer of friends, the middle layer of friends, and instead focus tightly on that inner circle of friends, because that's a real source of meaning and satisfaction. So again, you know, our lives are so deeply episodic, as you say, projects have beginnings, middles, and ends.

Some relationships have beginnings, middles, and ends, right? And so, the key is to be aware of the episodic nature of these things. Beginnings, as we discussed, have one effect. Endings have another effect. Midpoints, which are often invisible, have another effect. And so, if you're aware of You can actually make different decisions and use these forces, which you often don't see to our advantage, rather than be hostage to them.

[00:43:50] Hala Taha: Totally. And to everybody out there, I would totally recommend Daniel's book when it is so interesting. We couldn't even cover all of it. There's so much more valuable information on that book, so I definitely recommend to go grab that. I always end my show with this Last question. What is your secret to profiting in life? My 

[00:44:08] Daniel Pink: secret to profiting in life. Well, I guess if I tell you, it's no longer a secret, right? It's an interesting question, Hala. I would say not being too concerned about what other people think. Earlier in my life, I think I was pretty concerned about what other people thought of me. And then I had a great revelation.

I discovered what people thought of me. And the answer was, they weren't thinking about me. They were thinking about themselves. And that's liberating. If you stop caring too deeply about what other people think of you. I find that a source of great liberation and too many people are trying to conform to What they imagine other people are thinking or evaluating them when in fact all those other people couldn't care less about What this folks are doing.

[00:44:47] Hala Taha: I totally agree. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do? So 

[00:44:52] Daniel Pink: you can go to my website, which is www. danpink. com. I've got all kinds of good, cool, free resources. I've got an email newsletter, videos, all kinds of groovy 

[00:45:02] Hala Taha: stuff. Awesome. I'll stick some links in my show notes so my listeners have easy access.

It was so nice to speak with you. I think our audience is really going to enjoy this show. So thank you so much for your time. Thanks, 

[00:45:14] Daniel Pink: Holla. It's been a pleasure. 


Subscribe to the Young and Profiting Newsletter!
Get access to YAP's Deal of the Week and latest insights on upcoming episodes, tips, insights, and more!
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.