CNLP 233: Daniel Pink on the Science Behind Perfect Timing, How Morning People, Night Owls and Everyone Else Can Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness

There’s a science to maximum performance and productivity. Daniel Pink talks about the research that shows how morning people (larks), night owls and everyone in between (third birds) can find the perfect timing to do their best work. Dan also gives a number of helpful hacks on how to take the perfect breaks, the ideal nap and even how to take a caffeine fueled nap (a nappucino) to boost your productivity.

Welcome to Episode 233 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

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Assessments | Resources | When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

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Episode Links

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Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

3 Insights from Dan

1. Everyone experiences 3 stages within a typical work day

Wether you’re a morning person (Lark), night owl or somewhere in-between (Third Bird), we all move through the day in three broad stages, usually in this order: Peak, Trough, and Recovery.

Peak – the most vigilant stage of the day. It’s the best time for intentional work that requires focus with no distractions.

Trough – the mid afternoon lull where distractions come easily. This is the best time to do administrative-type work like attacking the inbox and completing routine paperwork.

Recovery – mood is typically high, but vigilance is not. Work that requires mental looseness, brainstorming, creativity, etc. is best accomplished in this stage.

2. Being intentional with your time produces the best results

So if the most productive time of day is at the beginning, how do you block those peak hours without frustrating coworkers or missing out on other things going on in the office (like meetings)?

Like so many things in life, it’s a trade off. If you want to make yourself accessible during your peak work hours there are going to be costs (like being less productive). If being available to your team is more important than doing your vigilant work, then be accessible to your team. But remember, that period of peak vigilance is fleeting.

In most cases, people who think they need access to you at the start of the day can actually wait a couple of hours and meetings can be rescheduled for set times later in the day. It may be tough at first to get a team on board, but once everyone is educated about the benefits of the process and on the same page about the three stages (Peak, Trough, Recovery), you’ll all start seeing results. Being intentional with your time is the key.

3. Breaks are a crucial part of performance

Breaks aren’t for lazy workers. Breaks are actually crucial for performance. 15 to 20 minutes is best, but if you’re short on time, even a quick five minutes can still have a big impact on your day. A little can go a long way, but here are a few tips so you can get the most out of your time:

Social time is better than alone time. Be in community with others.

Get outside. Escape the office and breathe in fresh air.

Moving is better than stationary. Get the blood flowing.

Fully detach. Don’t talk about anything work related until break time ends.

Quotes from Episode 233

We should be making our timing decisions based on science, not based on intuition. @DanielPink Click To Tweet We have to get past this notion that breaks are a deviation, a concession, soft. They are not. Breaks are a part of our performance. @DanielPink Click To Tweet Endings have a disproportionate effect on how we remember entire experiences. Be intentional about endings...Because endings have a disproportionate weight than other elements of the episode. @DanielPink Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 233

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Solve the Problems Most Leaders Miss: Didn’t See It Coming Will Help

If you want practical help overcoming some of the biggest challenges leaders face, my new book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That Nobody Expects and Everyone Experiences tackles the seven core issues that take people out: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and the emptiness of success and provides strategies on how to combat each.

I wrote the book because no 18 year old sets out to be cynical, jaded and disconnected by age 35. Yet it happens all the time.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s what top leaders are saying about Didn’t See It Coming:

“Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.” Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor, Central Church

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“Deep biblical insight, straightforward truth, and practical wisdom to help you grow.” Craig Groeschel, Pastor and NYT bestselling author

“This book is sure to help you.” Daniel H. Pink, NYT bestselling author

Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey…It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

“Nieuwhof’s book provides expert guidance…with an accuracy that pierces the heart.” Nancy Duarte, CEO Duarte Inc.

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You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.

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Next Episode: Donnie Griggs

So many leaders write off small towns and villages as places not worth investing in. Donnie Griggs would beg to differ. He tells the story of how he planted a church in a town of 9,000, only to see it grow to one with 1600-1800 people in small towns and villages. Donnie talks about how to find leaders, survive the fishbowl and what works and what doesn’t in a smaller setting.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 234.

CNLP 233: Daniel Pink on the Science Behind Perfect Timing, How Morning People, Night Owls and Everyone Else Can Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness


  1. Toptenarenas on August 31, 2020 at 5:29 am

    Very much interested in these type of articles. Very informative.

  2. Typhoon Tv on August 31, 2020 at 5:27 am

    I am very interested in this type of articles. Learned many new things. Thanks for sharing.

  3. My Boy Apk on August 7, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Does it matter whether you’re working during night or morning? What are pros and cons?

  4. Typhoon TV on July 8, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    It’s really amazing to see you doing such great interviews here. Would love to see more coming from you.

  5. Michael Stokes on December 18, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I love your podcast. It helps me so much. This one helps me understand why I sometimes am not as productive as I wish I could be. I am facing 2019 with an understanding that I may not be a 30,000 foot vision leader but I am a great 10,000 manager. I am looking for some resources to help me sharpen my skills as a manager ( I am a Gen X). I may not be the guy to come up with the battle plan but I am the guy to mange those around me to get it done. I do want to make sure I am seeing Gods gift correctly in my life and using it well to support those that are next level leader around me for business work and kingdom work. So any help would be great.

  6. Kim on December 12, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you Carey! Enjoy and learn from all your podcasts but this episode was one of my all-time favorites. Already started re-working how I approach work after listening and I look forward to reading the “When”.

  7. Andrew on December 11, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I’m super excited to listen to this episode, I saw Daniel Pink on a Live simulcast for Live to Lead this year and Daniel was really worth watching. Thank you Carey and your team for always getting really special people to interview, to making a difference in peoples lives!

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