We’d all like to get more done in our day. Recently, best-selling author Dan Pink outlined three powerful, research-backed ways to improve your productivity.

His talk took place at the business school at the University of Toronto to promote Pink’s new book When – The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink’s talk covered three key insights:

  1. How the hidden patterns in your day profoundly affect your performance
  2. A five-minute routine can dramatically improve your effectiveness
  3. End points are important – Sometimes they bring us down and sometimes they fire us up

Here’s how to implement each of those insights in your practice.

Schedule work to reflect the hidden patterns in your day

Pink began by talking about the dramatic impact when we do important work. He pointed to research that we are more productive in the morning, what Pink called our “peak stage.” Our effectiveness then drops into what he referred to as a “trough” before recovering late in the day.

This won’t surprise anyone who has spoken to an audience after lunch and seen heads nodding. But just in case you’re not convinced, the research on this is indisputable:

  • An NYU analysis of transcripts of 26,000 earnings calls found that in the afternoon, CEOs and CFOs were more negative, irritable and combative than for morning calls with similar earnings results. In some cases, short-term stock performance suffered as a result.
  • Doctors conducting colonoscopies in the morning found 20% more polyps than those same doctors performing that procedure in the afternoon … and doctors seeing patients in the afternoon were significantly more likely to prescribe unnecessary medications.
  • Research of student performance shows that time of day explains 20% of the variation in performance on cognitive tasks. A study in Denmark found that every hour after 8 am that students took an exam resulted in a drop in performance equivalent to lower levels of household income and parental education. Indeed, taking that test an hour later had a similar impact to missing two weeks of school.