When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

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"When - The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing" [1] is a book that delves into the science behind timing and its impact on our lives. The book explores how timing affects our productivity, relationships, and health and offers practical insights on how to make the most of our time. Project managers can benefit greatly from the insights presented in this book and apply them to their projects, platform, and portfolio management. In this article, we will explore how a project manager can leverage the tools and techniques presented in the book, to optimize their projects, platforms, and portfolios. By understanding the science behind timing, project managers can make informed decisions about the best times to initiate, execute, and close projects. This can result in increased efficiency and better outcomes for their projects. In addition to providing insights into the science of timing, this article will also offer practical tools that project managers can apply to their work. For example, project managers can learn about the best times to schedule meetings, make decisions, and take breaks to increase their productivity. By applying the insights from the book to their project, platform, and portfolio management, project managers can enhance their ability to successfully complete projects on time and within budget. They can also increase the satisfaction and engagement of their teams, leading to a more productive and motivated workforce. Overall, this article will give you a taste of key theories presented in the book which will hopefully be a valuable resource for project managers looking to optimize their projects, platforms, and portfolios. By understanding the science behind timing and applying its insights, project managers can improve their decision-making, increase efficiency, and achieve better outcomes.



Understanding the role of timing and psychology in the workplace is essential for project managers who want to optimize their team's productivity, creativity, and well-being. This article will explore the science behind timing and its impact on cognitive abilities, mood, and energy levels. By understanding the psychological principles of timing, project managers can create schedules, work environments, and practices that optimize their team's performance. This includes understanding peak-trough-recovery patterns, identifying individual chronotypes, and recognizing the importance of breaks, napping, exercise, and vacations on overall well-being and performance. The insights and tools presented in the book can help project managers to create a work environment that is optimized for their team's success and ultimately leads to greater satisfaction and fulfilment in the workplace.

"When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing" is a book written by Daniel H. Pink, published in 2018. The book consists of six chapters and 272 pages. The main focus of the book is to explore the science of timing and its impact on our cognitive abilities, mood, and energy levels, providing insights and tools that can be applied in various aspects of life, including project management.


Timing is a crucial factor in determining the success of projects, programs, and portfolios. Research has shown that people's cognitive abilities, mood, and energy levels follow a pattern throughout the day [1]. This pattern, referred to as the peak-trough-recovery model, consists of three stages: peak, when we are at our most alert and focused; trough, when our energy levels and cognitive abilities decline; and recovery, when our energy levels begin to rebound [2] Understanding these patterns can help project managers to schedule tasks and allocate resources more effectively, leading to improved productivity and performance. For example, research has shown that people are better at analytical tasks during their peak periods and more creative during their recovery periods [3]. Chronotypes, or individual preferences for morning or evening activity, also play a role in determining the optimal timing for tasks [4]. By identifying team members' chronotypes, project managers can allocate tasks to align with their natural energy patterns, leading to improved performance and well-being.

The Cultures Impact

Historically, work hours and school schedules have been influenced by societal norms and cultural factors, such as the need to coordinate with daylight hours for agricultural activities [5] This has led to a standardized workday that may not align with individuals' internal biological clocks, potentially leading to reduced performance and well-being [6]. Moreover, societal factors such as the rise of technology and globalization have further blurred the boundaries between work and free time, contributing to an increase in stress and potential burnout [7]. By understanding the impact of these factors on the experience of time, project managers can create more flexible and supportive work environments that cater to the needs of the team member’s biological clock.


In the realm of project, program, and portfolio management, it is vital to utilize various tools that can enhance productivity and optimize the performance of individuals and teams. In "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," Daniel H. Pink introduces a range of tools that focus on understanding and leveraging the science of timing. These tools can help project managers and team members maximize their cognitive abilities, boost creativity, and maintain well-being. In this section, we will explore key tools such as chronotypes, the peak-trough-recovery model, nappuccinos, the power of breaks, regular vacations, exercise, temporal landmarks, and synchronization. By understanding and applying these tools effectively, project managers can create work environments and schedules that are tailored to their team's unique needs and preferences, ultimately contributing to improved outcomes and satisfaction.

Peak-trough-recovery model

Peak Through Recovery Model

The Peak-Trough-Recovery model is a productivity management concept that divides the day into three periods: the peak, the trough, and the recovery. This model is used to help project managers understand their team members' natural energy rhythms and optimize their work schedules accordingly. From a project management perspective, the Peak-Trough-Recovery model can help managers to schedule tasks and team meetings when their team members are most productive, and avoid scheduling work when they are likely to be less productive [2]. This approach can help maximize productivity, improve job satisfaction, and reduce the likelihood of burnout. The figure to the right visualises how this model flows throughout the day.


A person's chronotype refers to their individual internal clock, which determines their sleep patterns, energy levels, and cognitive abilities. From a project management perspective, understanding the chronotypes of team members can be helpful in scheduling meetings, deadlines, and other important project-related activities [4]. For example, if there is a meeting that requires everyone to be alert and engaged, it may be better to schedule it during a time when most team members are at their most alert and focused. Likewise, if there is a task that requires a lot of concentration and creativity, it may be better to schedule it during a time when team members are most energized and creative. It is also important to recognize that individuals may have different work preferences based on their chronotype. For example, a morning person may prefer to tackle difficult tasks early in the day, while an evening person may prefer to work on those tasks later in the day. By accommodating these preferences, project managers can help team members be more productive and avoid burnout.

Power of breaks

Encouraging regular breaks throughout the day can help to improve your team's productivity, creativity, and overall well-being. As a project manager, you can help your team take effective breaks by scheduling them into the workday and providing a comfortable and inviting space for them to relax and recharge. Additionally, you can also lead by example, and make sure to take breaks yourself to demonstrate the importance of this practice.

Regular vacations

Taking regular vacations is important for recharging and avoiding burnout. As a project manager, you can encourage your team to take their vacation days, and make sure to plan projects and deadlines accordingly to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to take time off when they need it.


Exercise has been shown to have a number of benefits for mood, energy levels, and cognitive abilities. As a project manager, you could encourage your team to engage in regular physical activity, such as taking a walk during lunch breaks or organizing a team yoga session.

Temporal landmarks

Temporal landmarks, such as the beginning of the week, the month, or the year, can help to motivate your team and create natural deadlines for projects. As a project manager, you can use these landmarks to set clear goals and priorities, and communicate them effectively to your team.

Starting fresh

The idea of starting fresh suggests that we are more likely to make positive changes when we start on a "fresh start" date, such as the beginning of the week, the month, or the year. As a project manager, you can use these fresh start dates as an opportunity to reset and reorganize, setting new goals and objectives for the team.

Breaks during meetings

Taking breaks during meetings can help to increase engagement, attention, and creativity. As a project manager, you can schedule regular breaks during meetings, and encourage team members to get up and move around to help stimulate their minds and increase their productivity.


Nappuccino - How To

A nappuccino is a short nap followed by a cup of coffee, which has been shown to improve alertness and cognitive performance [8]. While not every workplace is equipped for napping, as a project manager, you could consider setting up a designated space where team members can take quick power naps during the day, or provide them with guidance on how to take effective naps during breaks. The figure to the right visualises how to take a nappuccino.


Synchronizing activities, such as team meetings or collaborative tasks, can help to build a sense of cohesion and unity among team members. Project managers can use synchronization as a tool to promote collaboration and improve overall team performance. The practice of aligning work schedules with the natural rhythms of the day, such as scheduling creative tasks for the morning and administrative tasks for the afternoon, can help to optimize your team's performance.

Real Life Examples

The following examples demonstrate how project managers can apply the principles of timing and well-being to optimize team performance and project outcomes.

Example A Software Development: A project manager overseeing a software development project could use the peak-trough-recovery model to schedule tasks based on team members' energy levels. Analytical tasks, such as coding and debugging, should be scheduled during peak periods, while creative tasks, such as brainstorming and design, should be scheduled during recovery periods. By aligning tasks with team members' energy patterns, the project manager is able to improve productivity and reduce the number of errors and defects in the final product.

Example B Construction: A construction project manager could implement a policy of regular breaks and nappuccinos for the on-site workers, particularly during the mid-afternoon trough period. This intervention could lead to a decrease in the number of accidents and injuries on the job site and an improvement in overall worker satisfaction.

Example C Marketing: A marketing manager is planning to launch a new marketing campaign at the beginning of the year, capitalizing on the fresh start effect. This strategy could lead to increased motivation and engagement among team members and a higher return on investment for the campaign.

Overcoming Challenges

Project managers may encounter challenges in implementing the principles of timing and well-being, particularly in organizations with rigid work cultures or schedules. The following strategies can help overcome these challenges:

1. Advocating for change: Project managers can educate stakeholders and decision-makers about the benefits of incorporating the principles of timing and well-being into project management practices. This may involve sharing research findings, case studies, and best practices to build a compelling case for change.

2. Flexible work arrangements: Introducing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help accommodate team members' individual chronotypes and energy patterns, leading to improved well-being and performance.

3. Incremental changes: In some cases, it may be more feasible to implement smaller, incremental changes, such as introducing regular breaks or adjusting meeting schedules, rather than attempting a complete overhaul of existing practices. These small changes can still have a significant impact on team performance and well-being.

4. Monitoring and evaluation: Regularly monitoring and evaluating the impact of timing-related interventions can help demonstrate their effectiveness and build support for further changes. This may involve tracking metrics related to productivity, well-being, and project outcomes.

Applying Timing Concepts to ISO 21500

The ISO 21500 standard provides guidance on the principles and practices of project management. By integrating the concepts of timing and well-being discussed in "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," project managers can further enhance their adherence to the ISO 21500 standard, leading to better project outcomes and team satisfaction.

1. Stakeholder engagement: Stakeholder engagement is a critical aspect of ISO 21500 [9]. Understanding the science of timing can help project managers schedule meetings and communications with stakeholders at times when they are most likely to be receptive and engaged. This can lead to improved collaboration and decision-making.

2. Risk management: The ISO 21500 standard emphasizes the importance of risk management in project management [9]. By considering the potential impacts of poor timing on team performance and well-being, project managers can identify and mitigate risks related to scheduling, resource allocation, and workload.

3. Quality management: Quality management is a key component of the ISO 21500 standard [9]. By optimizing team schedules and routines based on the principles of timing and well-being, project managers can improve the overall quality of project deliverables.

4. Resource management: Effective resource management is a central element of ISO 21500 [9]. By understanding and leveraging team members' chronotypes and energy patterns, project managers can allocate resources more effectively, leading to better project outcomes.

The Impact of Timing on Program and Portfolio Management

The concepts of timing and well-being can also be applied to program and portfolio management. By understanding the science of timing, program and portfolio managers can make more informed decisions about resource allocation, project prioritization, and overall program and portfolio performance.

1. Resource allocation: Program and portfolio managers can use the insights from the science of timing to allocate resources across multiple projects more effectively. This can involve aligning project schedules with the peak-trough-recovery model and considering team members' chronotypes when assigning tasks.

2. Project prioritization: Understanding the impact of timing on project success can help program and portfolio managers prioritize projects based on the optimal timing for key tasks and milestones. This can lead to improved project outcomes and better overall program and portfolio performance.

3. Performance measurement: By incorporating the concepts of timing and well-being into performance measurement, program and portfolio managers can develop more holistic indicators of project success. This can include measures related to team well-being, engagement, and overall satisfaction, in addition to traditional performance metrics.

4. Continuous improvement: Program and portfolio managers can use the insights from the science of timing to identify opportunities for continuous improvement. This can involve regularly reviewing and adjusting project schedules, work environments, and practices to better align with the principles of timing and well-being.

Main Takeaways

While the tools and concepts presented in this article can be valuable for project managers, it is important to recognize that there may be other factors that influence team performance and well-being. Additionally, some individuals may respond differently to specific interventions, so it is essential to consider individual differences and preferences when implementing these strategies. However, the main takeaways from this book can be condensed to following 4 statements.

1. Understanding the science of timing can help project managers optimize team performance and well-being.

2. The peak-trough-recovery model and individual chronotypes can inform task scheduling and resource allocation.

3. Cultural and societal factors influence our experience of time and can impact productivity and well-being.

4. Tools such as nappuccinos, regular breaks, exercise, and temporal landmarks can improve team performance and well-being.

In conclusion, understanding the science of timing and its impact on cognitive abilities, mood, and energy levels can help project managers create more effective schedules, work environments, and practices. By implementing the tools and concepts presented in "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," project managers can optimize their team's performance, leading to greater satisfaction and fulfilment in the workplace.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. (Riverhead Books). ISBN: 978-0735210622.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. (Journal of Economic Perspectives), 20(1), 3-24. https://doi.org/10.1257/089533006776526030.
  3. M. B, Wieth & R. T. Zacks, Time of day effects on problem-solving: When the non-optimal is optimal, (Thinking & Reasoning), (2011): 387-401, https://doi.org/10.1080/13546783.2011.625663 .
  4. 4.0 4.1 Roenneberg, T., Wirz-Justice, A., & Merrow, M. (2003). Life between clocks: daily temporal patterns of human chronotypes., (Journal of Biological Rhythms), 18(1), 80-90. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0748730402239679 .
  5. Costa, G., Sartori, S., & Akerstedt, T. (2006). Influence of flexibility and variability of working hours on health and well-being., (Chronobiology International), 23(6), 1125-1137. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07420520601089349 .
  6. Foster, R. G., Peirson, S. N., Wulff, K., Winnebeck, E., Vetter, C., & Roenneberg, T. (2013). Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption in social jetlag and mental illness. (Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science), 119, 325-346. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-396971-2.00011-7
  7. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. , (Academy of Management Review), 10(1), 76-88. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.1985.4277352
  8. Hayashi, M., Masuda, A., Hori, T. (2003). The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap. Clinical Neurophysiology, 114(12), 2268-2278. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1388-2457(03)00255-4
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 ISO. (2012). ISO 21500:2012 Guidance on project management. (International Organization for Standardization). Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/standard/50003.html
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