It’s not easy to keep an audience captive for an hour, let alone two days. And while the Digital Summit team had their work cut out for them in D.C. – a city of fast-moving and busy professionals, their unique perspectives and thoughtful programming proved to be both influential and enlightening.
What’s more, their message was clear throughout, it’s no longer enough just to do something, how and WHEN you do it is just as important.
Why Timing Is Everything (*Not Dating Advice)
Did you schedule a meeting today? Was it creative or administrative? Did that matter? Or did you just check to see what time worked on everyone’s calendar? Author, Daniel H. Pink, of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, responded to questions like these by highlighting two key lessons.
Lesson 1: 9 AM and 4 PM Are Not The Same
As digital professionals, we don’t always have time to choose which tasks we do, and when, but it’s important to know the scientific benefit of doing things a certain way. It’s statistically proven that moods shift during the day — positive mood rises in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and rises again in the evening. So what does that mean? Here are Pink’s 3 takeaways:
- Our cognitive abilities don’t remain static over the course of the day.
- These daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realize.
- The best time to perform a task depends on the nature of a task.
Pink refers to the various stages in your day as peak, trough, and recovery. The Peak which is typically the start of your day is the most optimal time to complete analytical work — before the noise of the day has taken hold. By the afternoon, the Trough kicks in and your mind is better suited for administrative work you’ve been putting off. As your day rounds out, your mood spikes and creates the perfect environment for insight based work, like a creative brainstorm or logo design. This last stage is Recovery.
What’s important to note is that not all Peaks and Troughs are the same. You know if you’re a morning person or a night owl. The driving point here is that many of us don’t schedule our days with this progression in mind – our cognitive abilities aren’t the same at 3pm as they are at 8am, so we shouldn’t expect the same output for the same task.
Given all this, will we fundamentally change how we work? Maybe, but probably not. The nature of marketing, digital, and PR work is ever changing and constantly competing. Pink’s suggests solutions, to make small and deliberate changes:
- Be much more deliberate and intentional in scheduling individual and team work.
- Move analytic tasks to the peak, administrative tasks to the trough, and insight tasks to the recovery.
- Take more and certain kinds of breaks: social, moving, outside, and full detached.
Lesson 2: Start With The Bad News, Don’t Ignore The Endings
Have you ever had to give a designer negative feedback from a client? Did you bury it under a pile of compliments? Did it go over well? Probably not. Turns out, there’s a science behind giving bad news first, and why you should always do it in that order. If you think about it, it’s really quite simple, what would you like to hear first? Exactly.
But what Pink is highlighting even more here is the value on how you end an interaction — a project, a conversation, a relationship — those moments matter just as much as the beginnings, cognitively speaking. Pink walked us through a mouth-watering study of how subjects rated chocolate over the course of 5 tastings. When the subject knew it was their last chocolate they were twice as likely to give it the highest rating, but when they were told their last chocolate was just their “next chocolate” ratings were abysmal. Juxtapose this with the first chocolate — rated universally high.
Similarly, when a project runs on for months, and even years, you run into fatigue from those working on the project (long fuse). While the end goal grows closer and closer, the excitement dies down. While this is inevitable for longer projects, it is important to have a healthy mix of projects or activities that are shorter time frames (short fuse), so to maximize the excitement and fulfillment associated with completion.
In the digital space, we are constantly looking to optimize efficiency and content flow — so how do we make the project wrap as exciting as the beginning? Maybe this is the wrong question. Hype and frills, while exciting, are short-lived. The key is to fundamentally change how you see endings: as a new beginning. Again Pink offers up a list of adjustments that hone in on the value of how we end and better ways to do it:
- Shine a light on endings to energize yourself and others.
- Consider short fuses rather than long fuses.
- Always give the bad news first.
- Highlight the last chocolate.
- Use endings as meaning makers
What to Take-Away
Websites aren’t built overnight (unless you’re part of our development team and then maybe they are), keep in mind that you don’t need to make huge changes to see impact, and learn from mistakes.
Whether you work in the digital space or not, the next time you participate in a meeting, notice what type of meeting it is, what time it is, and the mood of the room. You begin to consider the benefits of timing meetings to correspond with different productivity levels.
You don’t have to do away with your current system, but begin to consider the ebbs and flows of your day against the peak, trough, and recovery timeline. We are often hard on ourselves for not producing our best work. Spend some time analyzing the outside factors that might affect this. Allow yourself a compliment, maybe even a cheers at the end of the day — your energy will spread to others.