The science of chronobiology and how timing can change everything

It was Miles Davis who first said that time isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing!

But even more so, timing is one thing that can either make or break the perfect moment. Whether it’s applying for a new job, proposing to your partner, cooking an egg to the right density, taking a leap to move to a new city or even investing in Bitcoin (well done to everyone who got that one right) – timing is always a key player.

The study of time, called chronobiology, should be relevant to everyone because timing essentially affects everything. But how does it affect you?

In an article in the magazine Science, researchers shared what they discovered after looking at 500 million tweets sent by 2.4 million users in 84 countries posted over two years. They found that positive emotions like hopefulness and engagement were generally high in the morning, plunged in the afternoon, and climbed up again in the early evening. Neither the day of the week, nor the weekend, the country nor the time zone, made any difference. Across continents the same daily patterns occur: a peak, a fall, and a rebound.

What that says about human beings is that we are naturally prone to fluctuate between emotions throughout the day. At different times of the day we might be better off doing certain things.

In his book When, Daniel Pink explores the scientific secrets behind good timing to help you flourish at work, at school, and at home. Pink believes the quality of the decisions we make are closely linked with their timing. A classic example is morning and afternoon slots for exams at school. In a Danish study, children’s results for the afternoon shift were significantly lower than for those being tested in the morning.

This tendency is not universal but varies among individuals, however. There are larks who do particularly well in the morning and owls who perform better later in the day, according to Pink. Finding which one you are can help you plan high-IQ tasks for a certain part of the day when you are the most alert.

Besides finding your optimal time, it’s also good to identify your low points during the day and manage them with naps and leisurely daily walks – which are “not niceties, but necessities” according to Pink. He says the most efficient nap is, what he likes to call, the “nappuccino”. How it works is simple: down a cup of coffee right before you lie down.

Caffeine takes about 25 minutes to engage in your bloodstream, so by the time you wake up from your well-timed nap, you’ll be propelled by the caffeine to have a few more productive hours.

At the root of chronobiology is both time (chrono) and life (bio) so at the end of the day it’s important to know your own body and listen to when it functions best.

This post is sponsored by Volkswagen Touareg and produced by BrandStudio24.