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When is "the Best Time?"

"Most of us have harbored a sense that beginnings are significant. Now the science of timing has shown that they are even more powerful than we suspected.

Beginnings stay with us far longer than we know; their effect linger to the end."

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink's recent book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, brings together information on the "Hidden Patters of Everyday Life" for you.

Pink shows how important timing can be to results. His book covers the "Timing Effect"

1. On individuals over the course of a day

2. On individuals over the course of longer periods of time, for example "midlife"

3. On groups, such as at the beginning, middle, and end of a group project


We can all apply his findings to positively impact our lives an the lives of family members. Daniel Pink describes an overall daily pattern:

  • Morning to Mid-day Peak: BEST FOR ANALYTICAL WORK to keep focused and not get distracted

  • Afternoon Dip: BEST FOR CREATIVE WORK to make connections that aren't so obvious

  • Late-day Rebound: BEST FOR BRAINSTORMING when you are more alert and in a better mood.

There are known changes that will occur over the course of a day. Pink describes studies where performance can decrease by 20% depending on the time of day. Compare this to someone who is drunk when performance decreases 20%.


IN DENMARK, there were not enough computers for all the kids to take their standardized tests tat the same time. The kids were divided into groups to take the tests at different times during the day. Kids that had afternoon tests did significantly worse than those that had morning testing.

IN LOS ANGELES, Nolan Pope looked at the impact of having morning math and English classes on the rades of 2 million public school students in grade 6 through grade 8.

He compared the grades of students that had math or English the first period of the day compared to the last 2 periods of the day. Pope found that students with a morning math class increased grades over 7% and a morning English class increases grades 3%.

THE OVERALL MESSAGE, make sure your kids have math and English the first 2 periods of the day. That's when they will have testing. Your child's performance will result in higher grades. EVEN BETTER, students with both morning math and English did better on statewide standardized tests.


Children in middle school or high school should not start the school day before 8:30 AM, according to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This is based on age-related normal shifts in sleep cycles. The average middle school student doesn't get to sleep until 11:00 PM. It's biological.

Combine this with the Pediatric Academy recommendation that teenagers should sleep 8-10 hours each night. It is impossible for a high school or middle school student to get recommended sleep with school opening before 8:30 AM.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics starting school before 8:30 AM results in:

  1. More car accidents

  2. More mental health problems

  3. Lower grades


Without getting into the weeds here, it depends on the type of problem. Some problems require insight, while others analysis. People that are good at analysis are good at it in the morning. They don't let things distract them from their analysis.

But some problems require insight, not analysis. People good at analysis are better at solving insight problems in the afternoon when they are less able to focus. Less focus allows more insight.

The example Daniel Pink uses in his book is the coin problem: "How do you know that a coin with a date stamp of 1000 BC is fake?" Putting a stamp on a coin 1000 years before something is possible must be a fake; this requires insight to recognize the issue.


ADVERSE EFFECTS: In a study of 90,000 surgeries at a major teach hospital, adverse events occure at a higher rate in the afternoon:

  • 9 AM, the rate of adverse events was 1%

  • 4 PM, the rate of adverse vents was 4%

The rate of ACTUAL PATIENT HARM for these same events also showed a high rate in the afternoon:

  1. Was 0.3% at 8 AM

  2. Was 1% at 3 PM

HOSPITAL INFECTIONS: In a recent study in the US there were 6000,000 unnecessary hospital infections costing an additional 12.5 billion dollars in treatment, and resulting in 35,000 deaths.

Hand washing prevents the spread of infections in hospitals. In one hospital staff study, for every 10 times they washed their hands in the morning, these same individuals washed their hands only 6 times in the afternoon.

GOOD NEWS: The good news is that hospital studies resulted in ways to address these problems. The rate of adverse surgical events, including patient harm, is better controlled by hospitals that adopt "timeouts" and "vigilance" breaks.

In another recent book on how simple things can make a big difference is The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. It's about using aviation pre-flight checklists in healthcare to reduce problems.


It depends on what it is.

There are good times:

  • for individuals versus groups

  • for a nap to counteract the bad times to do things

  • to start over

  • for...

I recommend Daniel Pink's book as a great place to start.


Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.

For more information visit or call the office: Colchester 860-537-3014 or Hebron 860-228-4883

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