Ingredients for Success: Cognitive Space and Perfect Timing

Daniel Pink is the author of several best-selling books, including ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ and most recently ‘WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.’ Dan tuned in via video chat at the GTD Summit June 2019 in a lively conversation with David Allen and he shares his thoughts on the science of perfect timing, and how best to live, work, and succeed.
Cognitive Space
Create the space and carve out time for your most productive work. For Dan Pink, cognitive space has always been important to him, space is time, place, anything. Dan believes in the strategic value of having space, you don’t need time you need room (in your head).

    • GTD helps in creating the cognitive space, and helps him work out his Most Important Tasks (MIT) for the day.
    • Dan carves out a space in time for his writing and makes it distraction-free – no phones, no emails, nothing to distract.
    • GTD Weekly reviews keep him centred on why he is doing this.

Maintain the cognitive space with the right kinds of breaks
There is clear evidence that breaks are really important. The idea that the best way to get things done is to power through without a stop is empirically wrong. High performers are very good at taking breaks.
Ingredients for the right kind of breaks:

      • Something is better than nothing.
      • Having a break with others is better than solo
      • Moving is better than stationary
      • Fully detached is better than semi detached – breaks with social media are not the right kind of breaks.
      • Importance of being in nature, being outside

The Scientific Secrets for Perfect Timing
Everyone knows that timing is everything. Our lives present an an endless stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.
Our brain power, our cognitive abilities do not remain constant over the course of the day – there is a peak, a trough and a recovery. About 25% of us are night owls who hit their peak later in the day. However, most of us the peak is much earlier in the day.
Secrets for perfect timing:

      • During the peak – do analytical work.
      • During the trough (mostly early to mid-afternoon) – don’t do anything with high brain and energy need. Do mechanical or administrative work in the early afternoon.
      • Recovery (early evening) – our mood is up our energy is down. Great to do creative work.

Stay Productive, Stay Stress-Free,
Managing Director and Certified GTD Coach
Productivity First

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