Leadership

What you can learn about productivity from watching these 3 inspirational TED Talks

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If you feel like your work day goes by too quickly, it could be that you're not making the most of your time.

Although most employed Americans spend just over eight hours working, according to the US Department of Labor, bosses also find that workers are wasting their time in meetings, on social media, emailing and talking to their colleagues.

There's a chance you aren't even aware when you stop to do these things. Sometimes, you can't help checking your notifications or socializing a bit with your work peers. However, those small breaks can really add up.

These three TED Talks uncover how you can your time more effectively and be more productive at work:

Keep technology from distracting you

Do you ever find yourself constantly opening up your social media apps and email to check for new notifications?

Technology researcher Tristan Harris says our attachment to social media is the same reason gambling is so popular.

"My phone is a slot machine," he says. "Every time I check my phone, I'm playing the slot machine to see, what am I going to get?" Same goes for checking email and scrolling through Facebook.

Harris explains that you're not totally at fault.

"You're either on, and you're connected and distracted all the time, or you're off, but then you're wondering, am I missing something important?" he says.

Today's technology is designed to make things like messaging each other easy, "bulldozing each other's attention, left and right," rather than being practical and helpful.

Instead, Harris recommends that company leaders have honest conversations about how we spend time using technology. By setting those expectations, workers will follow.

Stop mindlessly accepting meeting invites

Similar to our addiction to notifications, communications expert David Grady addresses the importance — or lack thereof — of having meetings all the time. Many people complain about how meetings can be unproductive or derail your day's work flow.

"Collaboration is key to the success of any enterprise," Grady says. "A well-run meeting can yield really positive, actionable results."

But he points out that we have "this fundamental belief that we are powerless to do anything other than go to meetings and suffer through these poorly run meetings and live to meet another day."

Grady recommends that the next time you get a meeting invitation without much information, click the "tentative" button. Then, reach out to the person organizing the meeting to show your support and learn how your involvement in that meeting will help them meet their goal.

As a result, "people might actually start sending out agendas" or avoid "a conference call with 12 people to talk about a status when they could just do a quick email and get it done with," Grady says. "People just might start to change their behavior because you changed yours."

Learn from your colleagues and lean on them for support

While your office has the ability to be a very competitive place, especially if there are goal expectations, former tech CEO and entrepreneurship expert Margaret Heffernan says competition as an incentive is counterintuitive.

"All my life, I've been told that the way we have to get ahead is to compete: Get into the right school, get into the right job, get to the top, and I've really never found it very inspiring," Hefferman says.

She says that helpfulness "is core to successful teams" and "routinely outperforms individual intelligence."

"Helpfulness means I don't have to know everything, I just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help," she adds.

Instead of competing to reach your goals, you should lean on your coworkers to help you get the job done.

"What happens between people really counts, because in groups that are highly attuned and sensitive to each other, ideas can flow and grow. People don't get stuck," Hefferman says. "They don't waste energy down dead ends."

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