By Dick Stark
Daniel Pink just released a new book last week, When, the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I’ve been a Daniel Pink fan since his book Drive, and applied his motivation principals of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose at RightStar. We celebrate all of these things in our Weekly Star employee newsletter, and company all-hands meetings. So, I was very excited about the release of this new book, about timing. We all know that “timing is everything,” but few of us know very little about what to do about timing. Let me share several takeaways with you.
When to go first or last. RightStar submitted a bid to a public-sector organization in October and were notified in December that we made the short list. The next step was an onsite 90-minute demo/presentation. After that, the prospect would make an award. RightStar was selected to present last.
All sales reps are taught to ask to go last, thinking that it’s better to leave a lasting impression with the audience. Is that the right call? According to Daniel Pink, “it depends.” Pink states that, “if there are few competitors (say five or fewer), going first can help you take advantage of the “primacy effect,” the tendency people have to remember the first thing in a series better that those that come later.”
However, Pink explained, “if you are the default choice, don’t go first as judges are more likely to stick with the default late in the day after a break, when they are revived.” Did going last help us in this situation? No, after three prior 90 minute presentations the judges were exhausted and it was clear all they wanted to do was go home. We did not influence this bid and it is likely that the default choice won. Next time, we’ll ask if we can go first.
When to do our best work. Pink categorized people into three groups: Larks ((early birds), Third Birds (65% of us) and Owls (late nighters). We all have our own internal clocks, and there is a simple way to determine how it is set. When do we do our best work? See below:
|Analytic tasks||Early Morning||Early to mid-morning||Late afternoon and evening|
|Insight tasks||Late afternoon/early evening||Late afternoon/early evening||Morning|
|Making an impression||Morning||Morning||Morning (sorry owls)|
|Making a decision||Early morning||Early to midmorning||Late afternoon and evening|
For example, a third bird sales rep should prospect (call or email) during the morning to make the best impression. In general, morning is also the best time to connect. An owl consultant should shift her less essential tasks to the morning and begin her most important tasks in the late afternoon and into the evening. If we are involved in a strategy session or workshop, go for morning since most of the attendees are likely to be third birds, and workshops call for analysis and decision making.
Of course, it is not always realistic to move your schedule around, especially if your schedule is out of your control, but if you are aware of the optimal type of work assignment, you may be able to optimize your performance. If you are a lark or a third bird, don’t waste an hour in the morning on email. Spend that time doing your most important work.