Timing can help us get the most out of our day. But it can have a surprising and unexpected impact on people’s
Here are eight weird and wonderful ways to harness the power of ‘when’ to get better results.
The best approach is to get in early, timing your communications when they’re most likely to encourage helpful
For example, when Sainsbury’s adopted smart working at its head office in London, their comms approach targeted colleagues before they moved to their refurbished floor. Simple tips – like ‘no camping’, ‘travel light’ and ‘feel free to roam’ – promoted the right
behaviour change campaigns on a ‘fresh start’ day
It’s no surprise, for example, that searches for the word ‘diet’ soar by around 80% on January 1st. But they also
So if you’re planning a
Consider imposing a deadline even if there isn’t one
Take payroll giving, for example. We want to increase the number of colleagues who sign up, but there’s no limit to when they can do so. In cases like this, research suggests that a deadline can stir people into action even when one isn’t strictly necessary.
In one study, potential organ donors were more likely to sign up when given a strict deadline than when the choice was open-ended. In another, people given a gift certificate valid for only two weeks were three times more likely to redeem it than those with the same gift certificate valid for two months.
Useful as deadlines can be, there are limitations, as Dan Pink observes in When. Time limits for creative tasks can sometimes reduce motivation and flatten creativity, while deadlines for delicate negotiations may speed a resolution – but not necessarily the best one.
Use the Zeigarnik
This has become known as the Zeigarnik Effect: our brains work with ‘open’ and ‘closed’
We can take advantage of this by ‘opening files’ on a subject early. For example, if you know you have a creative project coming up, try to ‘open the file’ on it with some initial thinking or brainstorming. Having opened the file, your subconscious will work on it while you tackle other tasks, giving you a flying start when you’re ready to give it more attention.
Observe Parkinson’s Law
It’s a phenomenon played out in workplaces around the world, not least in that bear pit of potential time wastage: the meeting. Schedule an hour for updates from the team, and it’s likely they’ll last an hour - even though the content may warrant only 20 minutes.
So plan meetings and tasks tightly, and keep strictly to agenda timings. Try standing meetings to keep people focused, or circulate all pre-reading in advance so time isn’t wasted on unnecessary updates.
Answer emails quickly - especially if you’re a manager
Studies by sociologist Duncan Watts suggest email response time is the single best predictor of whether employees are satisfied with their boss. The longer it takes a boss to respond to their e-mails, the less satisfied people are with them.
So if you want a simple way to be perceived as a better manager, answer emails from your team promptly.
Don’t have a team? It’s a safe bet your colleagues will appreciate your speedy responses too.
Get off to a strong start with a ‘pre-mortem’
In When, Daniel Pink suggests conducting a
At the start of your project, encourage your team to project themselves into the future and imagine it’s been a complete disaster. What’s gone wrong, and why? By clearly identifying the risks in advance, you can put plans in place to mitigate
Imagine you’re behind at the midpoint
Research shows that believing you’re slightly behind at the midpoint of a project can spark motivation and significantly increase performance in the second half of the task.
So when you reach the midpoint of a project – or even the week, month or year - imagine you’re behind where you need to be. But only by a little.
Understanding the science of timing can give us the insight we need to boost our campaigns and give our performance an edge. So harness the power of ‘when’ – and hit your own metaphorical ‘home run’.