If you’re about to run a marathon and need some fitness inspiration, Jillian Michaels is your gal. If you’re going through some personal tribulations, you may look to Dr. Phil for advice. If you’re looking to make an investment, personal financial guru Suze Orman may be able to offer pearls of wisdom. But if you’re looking for ways to work better and smarter (and who isn’t?) you can have a direct line to some of the world’s leading thinkers through TED talks.
I’ve been listening to a lot of TED talks lately, and I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites on the topic of work. So try these five incredibly simple yet powerful tips from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, and become inspired to work better and smarter.
This is one of the simplest changes you can make to your work day, yet one that can have a profound impact on your health — not to mention one that can jumpstart innovative thinking. In this TED talk, Nilofer Merchant says that we shouldn’t just walk the talk, we should walk AND talk — literally.
“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” Merchant says, noting that on average we sit for more than nine hours a day. So the next time you’re scheduled to meet someone in a conference room, consider going on a walk meeting instead. “There’s this amazing thing about getting out of the box that leads to out-of-the-box thinking.”
If it works for the 52nd most powerful woman in the world, it could work for you. “It’s a very small idea that can unlock billions of big ideas that are at the moment dormant inside us … the way we do that is sleep.” Media mogul Arianna Huffington said she discovered the true value of a good night’s sleep the hard way — after she fainted from exhaustion and ended up needing stitches.
We as a society are sleep deprived, and many of us revel in this fact and brag about how few hours of sleep we can survive on, she says. But the truth of the matter is that we should “literally sleep our way to the top” because “the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.”
So come up with a plan: Set an alarm that goes off when it’s time for bed, get a fitness bracelet that helps you track your sleep cycle, or do whatever will work best for you to ensure you are getting a full night’s sleep.
The next time you’re in a meeting, try to pay attention to your posture. Do you sit up straight or have your arms folded or slouch? In this TED talk, Amy Cuddy suggests that your non-verbal behavior, or body language, could actually communicate a lot about you to others in the room.
“We tend to make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language, and those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we go out on a date, [etc.].” Interesting, and also kind of scary, right? Even more scary is the fact that our body language can control how we feel about ourselves. “When we’re forced to smile, it can make us feel happy. when you pretend to be powerful, you’re more likely to feel powerful,” she says.
The good news is, you can use these insights to your advantage by trying what Cuddy refers to as high-power poses. So the next time you’re entering a social situation at work, take just two minutes to power pose and ready your mind to not only feel more confident, but also to look and eventually become it.
In one of the most insightful and brutally honest talks about work-life balance that I’ve come across, Nigel Marsh says each of us should think about what a life well lived looks like and strive to create one for ourselves. “Governments and corporations aren’t going to solve [the work-life balance] issue for us. We should stop looking outside; it’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you – and you may not like their idea of balance.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can only have the life you want when you retire, he says. Instead try writing a step-by-step realistic description of what your ideal day, week, month would look like and make small changes toward achieving that. “The small things matter — being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life.”
But at the same time, you are the only one who can change your situation because no one else will. “We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life,” he says.
Maybe for you the first step is to turn off your work device so you stop receiving notifications after hours. Maybe it’s taking a day off here or there to spend quality time with your kids. Whatever it is, it’s up to you to take the first step.
What does collaboration mean to you? Conventional wisdom would tell us it’s partnering with individuals who agree with us and sharing a common vision, right? But Margaret Heffernan’s suggestion for effective collaboration is to seek “constructive conflict” by not always looking for people who think just like you and who’ll echo what you say.
What you really need to stimulate creativity and innovation, she says, is to surround yourself with people who think differently and who will challenge your ideas. “We have to seek out people with different backgrounds, different disciplines, different ways of thinking, and different experience and find ways to engage with them,” she says. But the problem is that people are afraid of conflict and don’t want to participate in arguments they think they’ll lose. To be a truly innovative thinker, however, you have to dare to break the silence and disagree when necessary.
So the next time you’re working on a big project or big idea, don’t be afraid to collaborate or consult with people from a diverse set of backgrounds who will challenge your ideas so you can function at your very best.
Tell us: Do you have any interesting tips or advice to share with your peers? We’d love to hear all about it, so leave a comment below.