When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Part Two. Beginnings, Endings, and In Between – 3. Beginnings: Starting Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together

  • When you begin can play an outsized roll on how you progress and where you end. Dan starts with research that shows most secondary schools start too early to the detriment of the students. Fewer than one in five schools start at 8:30 or later. Studies show that starting later improves attendance, grades, test scores, and it even lowers car crashes. The key reason schools start early is for the convenience for the adults.
  • When given a choice, people start things using landmarks from the calendar. The most prominent landmark is New Years Day for resolutions, but the beginning of a month or a week is also common as is someone’s birthday. The data shows that starting a career when the economy is good gives one a better chance of higher income throughout one’s career. The idea of starting together is also important. The key example here for educators are the benefits realized by programs where mothers of newborns work with nurses in their homes starting when the baby is born.
  • The Time Hacker’s Handbook here starts with the idea of a premortem during which everyone involved tries to think of what could possibly go wrong in regard to the project in question. It also includes tips on when to go first, when not to go first, and when to get married.

4. Midpoints: What Hanukkah Candles and Midlife Malaise Can Teach Us About Motivation

  • Midpoints are important as they can bring us down or fire us up. Several studies show that people generally feel a lower level of well-being in midlife than before or after. Performance on given tasks is likely to be higher at the start and finish than in the middle. Groups are known for stepping it up midway as they can see the deadline looming. In sports, teams slightly behind at halftime are more likely to win than teams slightly ahead. The lessons here are 1. Be aware of midpoints and don’t let them remain invisible. 2. Use midpoints to wake up rather than roll over. 3. Imagine that you are behind, but only by a little.
  • In the Time Hacker’s Handbook section Daniel advises to 1. Set interim goals by breaking large projects into smaller steps. It’s like being in a long race and concentrating on getting to the next mile. 2. Make public statements about interim and long-term goals. You are more likely to stick to a goal if you announce that you are going to do it. This helped me get my book done. 3. When you take a break leave off at a point where it will be easy to pick up again. 4. Try to establish a chain of doing something every day. This can help with exercise goals. 5. If your work will benefit others, try to imagine one person who will benefit. There is also advice here to fight the midlife slump.

5. Ending: Marathons, Chocolates, and the Power of Poignancy

  • There are four predictable ways endings shape our behavior.
  • 1. Energize: As one approaches the end of a task or a race, one tends to pick up the pace. Research also shows that people in the 9th year of a decade (e.g. age 29, 39, etc.) are more likely to take on significant tasks like running a marathon. Even suicide rates are up for these people. Deadlines are also more likely to result in finishing something, although in the case of negotiations we don’t always get the best result.
  • 2. Encode: Endings alter our perceptions for better or worse as this is when we evaluate entire experiences. The peak and end experiences are the ones that we remember the best. They may, however, distort our experiences.
  • 3. Edit: Once we reach the age of 60, we tend to edit the number of people in our social network. As we approach the end, we scratch out anyone and anything that isn’t essential.
  • 4. Elevate: Four out of five people would rather get bad news prior to good news so as to get a happy ending. The best endings, however, are not necessarily happy. The best endings give us what we need rather than what we want. At the core of a meaningful ending is poignancy, which delivers significance and unexpected insight. The Pixar movies offer good examples of these types of happy endings.
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