Time Chart to Boost Performance

Time Chart to determine the best times to perform big and small things in life. Based on scientific studies of time and human performance.

I have assembled a Time Chart to determine the best times to do what, when. The chart is based on a series of studies on time and its improbable effects on decision-making, emotional performance, lifestyle choices, and more. The importance of time is discussed and distilled in a new book entitled "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing," by Dan Pink.

Consult the chart below as a rule-of-thumb guide to enhance one's lifestyle and decision-making goals. (The chart represents universal trends, not rigid principles; for example, Night Owls may find the facts inapplicable in some cases.)


Quick Facts

When to drink coffee: An hour to 90 minutes after waking up. Not just after waking up! (Caffeine interferes with the production of cortisol, a stress hormone which kick-starts the waking-up process.)

The best time of day to exercise: It depends. Early in the morning to lose weight or to experience a longer mood boost throughout the day. Later in the day (or early evening) to avoid injury and to enjoy a more effortless workout and better performance.

When to make important decisions: After a break or nap. Usually in the morning, as opposed to the afternoon.

When to quit your job: After four years, when you have reached the top of your learning curve and thereafter risk becoming less engaged.

Undergo surgery: Choose the morning, not the afternoon. (Surgeons are more focused in the morning.) Choose a month that is not July or August. (New surgeons often begin their surgical trials in the summer after graduation.)

When to share good news and bad news: Start with the bad news, then end with the good.

The ideal time to enter a successful marriage: When you’re 32.

Graduation: Do not graduate during an economic recession. Choose a "boom" period instead. (Difficult to plan a graduation date on the basis of such factors, but the lifelong financial prospects for the student will be profound.)

Let’s start with a disturbing, real-life example of time's unconscious power over fate -- at least for a prisoner facing a parole board. When during the course of a day is the best time to be judged by a panel of one's peers? Would the answer be 9:00 am? 11:45 am? Or 4:30 pm?

The answer is 9:00 am, according to judicial studies in Israel. For the vast majority of people, the morning period offers a fresher mind and a sweeter heart. Also, the time after a break period can similarly reduce the severity of one's verdict. On the other hand, for someone who's tired or hungry, mood and judgment are likely to become significantly more irritable and harsh.

The research in Israel revealed that potential parolees were sentenced back to prison six times more often than their earlier-in-the day counterparts. The fact that a seemingly-arbitrary statistic -- time of day -- was found to exert such far-reaching consequences on a prisoner's chance of parole seems ridiculous, but often it appears we act more like mindless automatons than volitional beings.

Countless studies in recent years have explored the human nature of so-called free will. Time appears not to be the only unconscious influencer of human events. All kinds of invisible puppet strings appear to guide our clueless prefrontal cortex, ranging from subtle environmental cues (like the size of a food dish and its effects on dieting) to various rampant sociological biases.


Perhaps the best defense against the facts are more facts. It's time to crack the ignorance barrier around being human and to learn more about the maddening sponge inside our heads. Forewarned is forearmed.

(For more info, check out Dan Pink's podcasts)

Written by John DiPrete

Another version of this article appears in Psych Central.

The author has contributed to Psych Central, MacWorld, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, Speculations in Science and Technology, among other outlets.

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