The Time Is Now

What do hardboiled eggs, pulling out into busy traffic and hitting a home run in baseball have in common? They all require impeccable timing. 

There are countless examples in life—both professionally and personally—where timing counts, and may have even been critical to either the success or failure of the venture.

But for many people, timing is one of the last things they consider and, according to Daniel Pink, best-selling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, that's a  big mistake.

See Daniel Pink at AMTA 2019 National Convention »

“There are two big misconceptions about timing,” he explains. “The first is that timing doesn’t matter much, which is just flatly wrong. The research shows timing has a huge effect on our health, well-being and performance. The second is that timing is an art rather than a science, also flatly wrong. We should be making our timing decisions not by intuition and guesswork, but by drawing on a rich body of scientific evidence.”

Pink, who will be a Closing Session speaker at the AMTA 2019 National Convention, Oct. 24–26 in Indianapolis, Indiana, will help attendees better understand the science of timing, and how timing can help us make smarter decisions, enhance productivity and boost performance. It is an exciting moment in time for massage therapy as the profession evolves and continues to improve the quality of life for so many people.

Massage Therapy Journal sat down with Pink to ask him a few questions about timing and how massage therapists can use timing to their advantage, both to advance the massage therapy profession and in their own professional and personal lives.

See Daniel Pink at AMTA 2019 National Convention »

In your book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, you discuss being intentional about the timing of making decisions, completing tasks, etc. Can you give a brief explanation about the science behind this?

Across more than a dozen fields—economics, social psychology, endocrinology, chronobiology, cognitive science and more—researchers are uncovering a huge batch of exciting evidence that allows us to make systematically better “when” decisions. The research reveals the effects of time of day on our mood and our performance.

But it also offers insight into the episodic nature of our lives. It shows how beginnings affect us, how midpoints can either fire us up or bring us down, and how endings shape our motivation and memory. What’s more, the research shows how groups coordinate and synchronize, and even how the very way we think about time can affect our behavior.

How can the science of timing affect our professional or personal lives?

In so many ways. But one of the most important is to recognize that we don’t perform the same at different times of day. Our brain power changes during the course of a day. It doesn’t remain static and can change in significant ways. Different times of day are better for different kinds of tasks. The key is to be intentional about when we do things— not just what we do and how we do them.

Can you describe one way massage therapists could organize their days that would significantly change their personal and/or professional lives?

One possibility: Find out your clients’ chronotypes— and schedule them accordingly. Chronotype is a term from a field called chronobiology, and it represents the scientific underpinnings of “morning people” and “evening people.” That’s not just folklore. Some of us naturally get up early and go to sleep early. Others naturally wake up late and fall asleep late. About 15 percent of us are strong morning people, called larks. Approximately 20 percent of us are strong evening people, referred to as owls. About two-thirds of us are more or less in the middle.

My hunch is that clients will respond differently to massage therapy at different times of day, so testing that out could be very useful. For instance, we already know that for most people, talk therapy is more effective in the morning than later in the day. There might be particular times of day when people are more responsive to massage therapy.

It is an interesting moment in time for massage therapy. There’s been an increase in research on the efficacy of massage therapy for pain management, specifically as an alternative to opioids. What can the profession do to capitalize on your research related to timing and motivation to keep moving the profession forward?

Follow the science. In any realm of health and wellness, people are susceptible to believing in pseudoscience or just following the latest trend. The more any approach is grounded in real evidence, the more likely it is to help people. And the dirty little added secret is that over the long-term, science-based interventions are a better business.

Based on your research on timing and motivation, what are a few simple yet impactful changes that massage therapists can make to enhance their individual practices?

Here’s one simple idea. People are more likely to begin behavior changes on certain days of the year—what researchers call “fresh start dates.” So, if you’re hoping to begin someone on an extended program of massage therapy, you might have a better chance if you begin on Monday rather than a Thursday, the first of the month rather than the 17th of the month, and the day after someone’s birthday rather than two days before someone’s birthday.

Self-care is an important topic for massage therapists who are in a profession that is physically demanding. What are some steps related to timing that massage therapists can take to ensure their health and wellness?

Be sure to take breaks. That actually matters much more than we realize. Breaks are not deviations from performance; they are part of performance. In fact, the science of breaks is where the science of sleep was 15 years ago—about to break through the surface.

We also know a lot more about which breaks are best at restoring energy and reviving mental acuity. The best breaks are those in which we’re moving rather than stationary, outside rather than inside, with others rather than alone and fully detached rather than semi-detached.

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Satu F., AMTA member since 2003