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Study Tips

7 best TED talks for productivity

Exam season wearing you out? Motivational TED talks are the perfect way to inspire you and get you back on the productivity track.

TED Talks logo on a mobile screen

Credit: Burdun Ilya – Shutterstock

TED talks are the ultimate kick-up-the-arse you need when you're struggling to stay motivated.

TED talks cover everything. Amazing new scientific breakthroughs? Check. A 15-year-old entrepreneur's lecture on starting a business and realising the only thing you've achieved today is two pages of hand-written notes that you can't read or even remember writing? Check.

From Amy Cuddy's infamous power pose to Andy Puddicombe's advice on doing nothing, most of these motivational talks take less than 10 minutes to watch, making them ideal for study breaks.

Once you're done with the motivational talks, head over to our guide to productivity hacks for tips on getting more work done.

Top inspirational TED talks

These are the most popular TED talks that'll help you be more motivated:

  1. Tim Urban's TED talk on procrastination

    While Tim Urban has one of the best motivational TED talks for students, exam time is probably not the best time to discover him (or you really will become a master procrastinator!).

    He's the creator of a fantastic blog called Wait But Why, which takes complicated subjects and breaks them down into easily digestible content including some funny little illustrations.

    In his TED talk, appropriately titled Inside the mind of a master procrastinator, Tim reflects on his 'talent' as a master procrastinator and suggests that there are two types of procrastinators. Which type are you?

  2. Judson Brewer's talk on how to break bad habits

    Finding yourself taking 15 cigarette breaks during every shift at the library? Checking Insta after every sentence you type?

    This talk from Psychiatrist Judson Brewer discusses an interesting technique you can try in order to kick habits that get in the way of us getting things done.

    And forget cigarettes, anyway! These brain fuel foods are natural concentration boosters and will help you de-stress more effectively than cigarettes ever will.

  3. Amy Cuddy's TED talk on body language theory

    There's a reason this talk has been watched tens of millions of times. Namely, because Amy Cuddy's theory totally works.

    Cuddy's inspiring talk, Your body language may shape who you are, looks at how a few minutes of 'power posing' before you start your day can have such a positive effect on your psyche that it can contribute to success.

    Make sure you bust some of these moves before your exam!

  4. Neuroscientist Jed Iliff's TED talk on sleep

    Planning on pulling a few all-nighters before your exam? In One more reason to get a good night's sleep, Jeff Iliff might make you reconsider as he discusses research that shows the crucial role that sleep plays in the brain's functionality.

    Found yourself in a time-management pickle? Luckily, with our tips on how to revise in a day, you can still fit a good night's sleep in before your exam.

  5. Andy Puddicombe's 10 mindful minutes

    In this talk, Andy Puddicombe explains how productive it can be just to take 10 minutes out of your day to literally do nothing.

    Even if meditation isn't your bag, taking time out like this can do amazing things for your stress levels during exams. As Andy says, All it takes is 10 mindful minutes.

  6. Eugene Hennie's TED talk on finding your passion

    When making a list of the most inspiring TED talks for students, we couldn't leave out Eugene Hennie's talk. In his TED talk, Hennie speaks about remembering what gets you out of bed in the morning, and what your passions are when thinking about your future career.

    Often we find ourselves making decisions about our future that don't excite us because we think they're the 'right' decisions to make.

    In How to find your passion and inner awesomeness, Eugene discusses how he followed a corporate career path then realised it wasn't something he wanted to do, and later had to rediscover his 'awesomeness'.

  7. Niko Everett's talk on building self-esteem

    Low self-esteem can have a seriously negative effect on different areas of your life, and university is no exception.

    But as Niko Everett points out, since self-esteem literally comes from our own brains and is based on our own thoughts of ourselves, we have the potential to do something about it.

    She discusses the importance of learning to love yourself in Meet yourself: a user's guide to building self-esteem, and avoiding the dangers of always comparing yourself to others.

    Sounds super cheesy, but sometimes it's easy to forget our strengths when we're stressed about uni – step back for a minute and remember how great you are.

We're sure once you've made your way through these talks you'll be ready to walk into that exam hall and give it everything you've got. We know you've got this – good luck!

Tip: Knowing how to cope with pressure will help you get some of your best work done.

Katie Paterson

WRITTEN BY Katie Paterson

Katie Paterson is an accomplished writer from Glasgow. She studied English Literature at the University of Strathclyde, then went on to do a Research Masters in Literature at the University of Amsterdam. As Lead Editor for Save the Student, Katie has covered topics from career tips to ways to make money go further as a student.
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