Top 10: TED Talks about Productivity

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It’s World Productivity Day on May 20. To celebrate, the Business Optimizer team has selected ten of our favorite inspirational, motivational, and must-listen talks about productivity.


Under 5 minutes


#1: Got a meeting? Take a walk

Nilofer Merchant explains how an invitation to a meeting while walking the dog has changed her activity levels and the way she conducts meetings. People now sit, on average, for 9.3 hours per day – more than we sleep – and, in this way, sitting has become the new smoking. Discover how reconsidering where and how you schedule meetings can have serious health benefits. And how getting out of the box helps with “out of the box” thinking.

 #2: How to succeed? Get more sleep

To a room full of sleep-deprived people, Arianna Huffington explains how she rediscovered the value of sleep. She argues that the key to a more productive, more inspired, and more joyful life is getting enough sleep. Instead of falling into the trap of sleep deprivation competitiveness, you should “sleep your way to the top”.

 #3: Success is a continuous journey

Richard St John asks why so many people reach success and then fail? In this talk, he suggests that when we stop doing the things that made us successful, it doesn’t take long to slip back. Using his own business experience as an example, he shows us that the key to success – and happiness – is continuing to do the things we love.

#4: 8 secrets of success

Richard St John again – this time, in a laugh-out-loud presentation, he talks about the 8 aspects that go into creating continuing success: passion, hard work, a focus on one thing, getting good at it, pushing yourself, being open to ideas, serving, and persisting.

 Under 10 minutes


#5: How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings?

David Grady asks why, every day, we allow our co-workers (who are otherwise very nice people) to steal something very valuable from us – our time. He argues that, although collaboration is key to success, we need to stop mindlessly accepting any meeting invitation we receive.

#6: Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume

Human Resources Director Regina Hartley asks: do you pick the “silver spoon” or the “scrapper”. A series of odd jobs on a CV might signify a lack of focus – or it might signify a commitment to struggle against adversity. How do you deal with failure when you’ve only experienced success? And, on the flip side, what happens when you achieve success in the face of tremendous odds?

 Under 15 minutes

#7: The happy secret to better work

In this highly amusing talk about positive psychology, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness inspires us to be more productive. Instead of complying with the cult of the average, how do we celebrate the outliers and move the whole average up?

 #8: Dare to disagree

To make real progress, we don’t need echo chambers – we need good disagreement, says Margaret Heffernan. Using the example of Alice Stewart, Margaret demonstrates that we need to be open to contrary opinions, disagreement, and being challenged. We need to seek out and engage with people who are different to ourselves and be prepared to change our minds.

 #9: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Tim Urban says his behavior has always perplexed non-procrastinators. However, for procrastinators like Tim, the brain’s rational decision maker is plagued by the instant gratification monkey… and the instant gratification monkey isn’t the guy you want behind the wheel (or you might end up in the dark playground with the panic monster!).

 #10: How to speak up for yourself

Social psychologist Adam Galinsky discusses how you can make an ambitious ask or speak up for yourself without coming on too strong – or too weak. He argues that our range for success is not fixed – it depends on power and context – and, to maximize our success, we need to understand what our range is. He also offers a set of tools for expanding our range of success.

 Now you’ve listened to these talks about productivity, it’s time to get back to work before the dark playground beckons! Happy Productivity Day!