10 TED Talks to Keep You Motivated While Working Remotely

By Cari Thompson

Estimated read time: 5 minutes, 49 seconds

Some of us are really good at self-motivating. And some of us … are not. Many of us find ourselves in a new situation where we are working at home—no bosses, no coworkers, and about a million things around our house to distract us. So how are we supposed to keep ourselves on the ball?

Well, sometimes the best way to be productive and get motivated is to distract yourself for a little bit. I know that sounds counterintuitive. But I don’t mean distraction in a bad way; I mean distraction in a productive and thoughtful way. So here are some awesome TED Talks to break up your at-home workday, help you think a little differently, and give you the motivation to do your best work.

1. The Paradox of Efficiency

This talk from Edward Tenner is all about how our obsession with efficiency can actually make us less efficient. This is actually where I stole my idea for “productive and thoughtful” distractions. For example, instead of sitting at your desk all day working, sometimes the more productive solution is to fidget and walk around. And if you like to hear about how potatoes relate to efficiency, this is definitely the talk for you.

2. How Frustration can make us more creative

The title alone of this TED talk seems a little too applicable to our current situation. Tim Harford explains how we need to gain more appreciation for the little messes in our lives, because there are certain types of obstacles that can actually improve our performance. Obstacles help us think outside the box and be more creative. If you think about your new working situation, you’re probably having to deal with a lot of obstacles, but those obstacles might actually be making you better at your job. My favorite quote from the talk is, “Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t helping you.”

3. The Happy Secret to Better Work

This TED talk is so funny, so you should probably just watch it to get in a few laughs today. Shawn Achor talks about how we’ve been thinking about happiness and productivity backwards. We often think that if we’re more productive, we’ll become happier. But he argues the opposite—if we’re happy first, we’ll be more productive.

So, instead of hoping that our successes at work will make us happy, we need to be happy in order to achieve those successes. He says that “75% of your job successes are determined by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”

And if you need some ideas to create some positive changes in your life, Achor shares some of his tips at the end.

4. How to Succeed? Get more sleep

This is a super short talk by Arianna Huffington where she talks about the importance of sleep. Sleep is such a simple thing, and we often overlook it or underestimate its importance. It’s to the point where we often pride ourselves on how little sleep we can get while still functioning during the day, which is crazy. Huffington says, “The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.” So, watch this talk really quick, and then go take a nap.

5. How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

Nobody likes bad meetings. And yet we find ourselves in unproductive meetings all the time. So what are we supposed to do about it? David Grady has some good tips to help you avoid attending meetings that you shouldn’t be invited to in the first place.

This is the perfect time to listen to this talk. Now that our primary communication channel—in-person conversation—has been turned on its head, it may be time to rethink how we run and participate in meetings. Watch David Grady’s talk and see what ideas you can implement to improve your interoffice communication.

6. Want to be more creative? Go for a walk

Unless you’re on total lockdown, you can still go for walks. And you really should. Marily Oppezzo talks about how getting up and going for a walk might be all it takes to get your creative juices flowing. So, whether you’re trying to come up with an idea or prepare for your next meeting, try taking a little stroll first.

7. Forget multitasking, try monotasking

In an office, it is sometimes easier to monotask. At work you’re usually just one thing—a marketer, a developer, a copywriter, a designer, a sales rep., etc. But when you start working from home, those roles get all mixed up with being a spouse, a parent, a homeowner, a gamer, etc.

So, before you get overwhelmed trying to juggle a million different balls, watch Paulo Cardini talk about finding your monotask spot within the multitasking world. While his talk relates mostly to our digital senses, the principles still apply to our current situation.

8. Why do we sleep?

Yes, it’s another sleep talk, but it’s absolutely fascinating, so you should watch it. If you didn’t already know it, sleep is super important, despite how many of our heroes, like Thomas Edison, think sleep is a huge waste of time.

If you don’t believe me, Russell Foster is a neuroscientist who specializes in the science of sleep. He argues that our ability to be creative and come up with solutions to complex problems is enhanced with sleep.

9. The Psychology of Self-Motivation

When you work from home, you have to be at your peak of self-motivation. You don’t have bosses or coworkers walking past your cubicle to make sure you’re not wasting time on your phone or social media. You have to keep yourself on task.

In this talk, Scott Geller says that self-motivation is all about how you communicate with yourself. You have to constantly ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth your time and effort.

Despite sounding counterintuitive, Geller says social support is critical in self-motivation. We still need each other and a sense of community around our efforts.

10. 8 Secrets of Success

Richard St. John tells you everything you need to do in order to be successful … in just three and a half minutes. He spent seven years and conducted 500 interviews with successful people to come up with eight common qualities of successful people. And yes, it turns out you have to be willing to work hard to be successful. I was really hoping there was an easier way.

Working in isolation can be difficult. And while it’s nice to be the smartest person in the room, sometimes it’s nice to gain new insights and perspectives from people who are absolutely killing it in their field. So, hopefully these TED talks will give you a nice little break in your day and something new to think about.

Cari Thompson

Cari Thompson is a copywriter, online marketer, and blogger. She studied marketing and advertising and—drum roll, please—music at Brigham Young University. Cari started in traditional advertising as a media buyer then transitioned into the online world through buzz marketing, blogging, and copywriting.

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