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6 Unexpected Productivity Tips Inspired by TED Talks

  • By Sophie McAulay
  • November 25, 2020

Want to get more out of each day?
When you’re your own boss, this can be one of your biggest challenges… With no one looking over your shoulder, the motivation to kick more goals needs to come from within. Overcoming the temptation to press the snooze button one more time is all on you, and if you’re not getting the most out of your day, you’re only hurting yourself and your bottom line.
What you need is some strategies to help you stay productive, every. damn. day. 
If you’re too busy trying to be productive to watch all of these TED Talks, don’t worry—I’ve picked out the top tip from each so you can go straight to the key takeaway.

1. Don’t multitask

From Forget Multitasking, Try Monotasking by Paolo Cardini

As someone who has to invoice clients, track expenses, and pitch for new work on top of completing your current jobs, it may seem like multitasking is a great skill to have. And with the amount of things we do at once in our daily lives—like watching TV while texting or cooking—many of us feel like we have this skill down pat. But research has shown that multitasking is not only ineffective, it causes us to make mistakes and even lowers our IQ. Paolo Cardini teaches us that mono-tasking is much more effective. In his two-and-a-half minute talk, he explains that we should focus on one task at a time—starting by downgrading our mobiles into the essence of their function.

2. Be happier

From The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor

Think you’ll be happy if you can just figure out how to work productively? You may be thinking about things the wrong way around. Psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness inspires us to be more productive, providing you with a great excuse to prioritize the things that make you smile.

Think you’ll be happy if you can just figure out how to work productively? You may be thinking about things the wrong way around. Click To Tweet

3. Embrace stress

From How to Make Stress Your Friend by Kelly McGonigal

If you’ve ever felt so overwhelmed by how much you have to do that you don’t know where to start, you’ve probably viewed stress as unproductive. But research has shown that it’s actually your attitude to stress that determines the effect it has on you.
In this talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal shares that the 15th highest cause of death in the U.S. is ‘stress belief’—not stress itself. What that means is that people are more likely to die from stress-related illness if they believe that stress is harmful to their health. Those who are highly stressed but don’t believe it’s harmful are actually the group least likely to die. By reshaping how you think about stress, and viewing symptoms like a faster heartbeat, faster breath and sweating as your body preparing to act against a challenge, you’re more able to turn stress into something productive. 

4. Take time off

From The Power of Time Off by Stefan Sagmeister

It might feel like you don’t have time for a holiday, especially if you’re running a one-person shop. But this TED Talk teaches us that actually, you don’t have time not to have a holiday. Giving yourself an opportunity to rejuvenate could help you to return more productive and more inspired by new creative ideas. Designer Stefan Sagmeister has embraced this concept by closing his New York studio every seven years for a year-long sabbatical. Often he comes up with innovative projects during this time off, and he shares some of the projects he created when he was in Bali in this talk. 

5. Don’t work from an office

From Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work by Jason Fried

In news that is music to the ears of solopreneurs and freelancers, it turns out the office is not a good place to get work done.
Just like when you’re awoken from sleep and have to go through several cycles to get to that same deep sleep again, Jason Fried argues that it takes a long time to get back to the same level of work ‘flow’ after interruptions like meetings and managers in the office. That’s why so many people tend to say they’re most productive when they’re somewhere other than the office – be it their front porch, a cafe, or somewhere else.

In news that is music to the ears of #solopreneurs, #freelancers, and #digitalnomads, it turns out the office is not a good place to get work done. Click To Tweet

6. Don’t follow the rules

From How Too Many Rules at Work Keep You From Getting Things Done by Yves Morieux

Business consultant Yves Morieux discovered that worldwide productivity has decreased dramatically since the 1950s. He believes this is due to the myriad systems, metrics, management layers, and processes we have in place, which stop us from focusing on getting the stuff that matters done.
If you’re a freelancer or remote worker, chances are you love your freedom, so you’re already halfway towards escaping this cause of productivity decline. Morieux also argues that collaboration, rather than competition, can help increase our productivity – so perhaps you can look for ways to collaborate more closely with your clients or with other freelancers.

Find your flow

There’s plenty of great content out there that’ll give you tips for being more productive, but it’s all about finding something that works for you. And when you do, you’ll also find the secret to happiness, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s talk, Flow, the Secret to Happiness.

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