Perfect Timing: Are You Lark, Owl or Third Bird?

Perfect Timing: Lark, owl or third bird?

Perfect Timing: Lark, owl or third bird?

Perfect timing. Does such a thing exist outside of Tom Brady’s perfectly thrown and received football passes? Or Steph Curry’s three point basketball shots? Or does such a thing  as perfect timing really exist?

Perhaps, or if not perfect, nearly so. But of even of more interest to you and me is that the timing for decision making and for creativity can vary considerably. One important predictor is whether you are what Pink’s researcher’s call, a ‘lark’ -early morning, ‘owl’ -night owl or third bird- a combination of both.

Dan Pink’s most recent book deals with timing; more precisely, the secrets of perfect timing. Secrets that depend on whether you a lark, owl or third bird.

And why pray tell, should you- or anyone for that matter, care? Because it may be a matter of life or death.

Pink begins his book with an infamous event: The sinking of the Lusitania. The author reminds us that even one hundred years after the tragedy, conspiracy theorists claim malicious intent rather than accident to the errors made by the ill-fated Captain Turner’s failure to increase speed and executing a time consuming swerve to avoid the torpedo. Turner was a pawn of the UK to coerce the US into joining WW l or of other forces intent on war.

Pink, however, suggests that Captain Turner’s disastrously bad decisions might have a less sinister cause: “maybe those decisions were bad because he made them in the afternoon.” Notoriously the most dangerous times for decisions of a critical nature.

That we are all subject to circadian rhythm is not news. Our biological clocks make themselves evident when we look around during early morning meetings and see the variation on the faces around us. Wide- awake and happy to somnolent and barely conscious. And are well aware of where we fit on the continuum- either a morning person or a night owl: lark or owl.

Many of us however don’t take that knowledge that into account when making our most important decisions: Getting married, deciding to quit or take on a new job are sometimes decisions made on the fly. But the almost universal problem with mid-afternoon decision making is far less recognized.

 The period between 3 to 4 pm is the worst time for a patient. During this afternoon lapse in attentiveness, patients are three times more likely to receive a possibly fatal dosage of anesthesia. They are more likely to die within two days after surgery. If they receive a colonoscopy, the endoscopists are less likely to detect any polyps (small growths on the colon). Meanwhile, hospital interns are more likely to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections that they do not actually need. Hospital caregivers are less likely to sanitize or wash their hands in the afternoons, increasing their patients’ exposure to potentially harmful microorganisms and unnecessary infections.

Now that I have your attention, here are a few things you can, do according to Pink.

  • Start by finding out your ‘chronotype’ via a quick and practical online questionnaire to determine which of the three types you are: click here on danpink. You may be surprised.
  • Prioritize your decision making. And act accordingly. And refuse mid-afternoon surgeries.
  • Take a nap and get into the habit of taking breaks. Highly successful people, Pink claims, work intensely then take breaks. Some take very long breaks.
  • During the break, resist the temptation to multitask.
  • Get outside if possible.
  • Walk-even for 10-15 minutes.
  • Although the strange of correlation of creativity and fatigue was well-known to me, I appreciated Pink’s reminder that researchers have found that our capacity for “innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms.”

That must be why exhaustion and writing a new book are occasionally essential partners.

 

 

 

 

 

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