How to be productive, stop wasting time on unimportant things, generate new ideas, and create a balanced life? Here’s a selection of TED talks on productivity, harmony, balance, and happiness. Funny and inspiring, they explain psychological and organizational aspects of productivity and will definitely help you understand how to get more done without overworking and feeling unhappy with what you do.

1. First be happy, then be productive

We’ve used to the scheme where we need to achieve something and then we’ll be happy. The main idea of Shawn Achor’s talk is that this approach is wrong. First be happy, and it will inspire you to achieve more and be more productive. Prefaced by long but funny stories, this talk describes how positive thinking helps us create what is called the happiness advantage: those who are happy and do what they want, achieve more than those who crave for more in the hope of becoming happy.

2. Save the world from bad meetings

Meetings are counterproductive, and we all seem to know that. Inviting a person to an irrelevant meeting is no better than stealing their chair (because you know, time is more valuable than chairs). And still, we keep spending time on useless meetings. David Grady tells us how to save the world from this time waster. Not from any meetings at all; only from those attended mostly by people with Mindless Accept Syndrome – see video for detailed clinical pattern.

To sum up, just don’t join meetings that don’t have a lot of relevant information. Just hit the “Decline” button and respectfully ask the person who invited you how you can contribute the goal of the meeting, taken into account you’re not proficient in the subject. And if saving the world will still remain a long-term goal, at least you’ll save your time.

3. Famous Tim Urban’s talk on procrastination

Have you ever heard about the Instant Gratification Monkey and its destructive role in our decision-making about the proportion of work and leisure activities? This video will definitely clear things up for those who work on their productivity. It doesn’t include any ready-to-use methods, but it explains a lot why and how procrastinators procrastinate. Now that you know your enemy and know yourself, it’s easier to defeat procrastination and start being productive. Well, maybe not today, but someday soon.

4. Gaining control of your free time

How often are we complaining about not having time? And how true is that? We find time quite easily when something urgent needs to be done.That means we don’t literally “don’t have time”, it’s just a way to say “it’s not a priority”.

We have 168 hours a week, and after deducting 40 hours of work and 56 hours of sleep, 72 hours still remain for other things. The question is, what things matter to you so that you allocate that time for them. Thoughtfully setting priorities is the crucial part of time management. Another important part is treating your top priorities like an urgent matter. And don’t forget about small moments: read something on your way to work or use breaks at work for exercising, instead of pulling out a phone and mindlessly browsing social media.

5. Making work-life balance actually work

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a balanced life, but this talk contains some advice on finding the harmony. Some of us think that finding the work and life balance is squeezing more activities into the schedule, but in fact, it is about attention focus. It needs to involve all areas: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual.

Another important thing is approaching the balance in a balanced way. This means, don’t just re-focus on something else; try starting with paying more attention to small things that matter. They harmonize your life, dominated by work and work-related activities. This will definitely change the quality of your life and, according to Nigel Marsh, it can even transform society.

6. How to think like a creative person

Why do ones come up with great new ideas and others cannot think creatively? What is the difference between their ways of thinking? Adam Grant tells about the connection between procrastination and creative thinking. It turns out, procrastination, while being destructive for productivity, can boost creativity. It gives you time to think in nonlinear ways and look at things with fresh eyes.

But what if you are afraid of failing, looking stupid, and embarrassing yourself? Creative people are afraid too, but they still speak up. They come up with tons of good and bad ideas that mostly don’t work – but some of these ideas have success. So, to sum up, creatives try hard and come up with hundreds of ideas. To be more original, we have to generate more ideas, even if most of them are far from being masterpieces.

7. Why work doesn’t happen at work

The main idea of this talk is that the office is not the best place for being productive. If you ask people where they go to get things done, you almost never hear someone say “to the office”. People mostly choose the most comfortable and distraction-free environment for that, especially creative people – designers, engineers, developers, writers.

In fact, the office is full of distractions. And don’t blame Facebook and other social media: they can be banned.The evilest thing at the office is managers and meetings, or M&Ms, as Jason Fried calls them. “Managers are basically people whose job is to interrupt people” – that’s the reason why the office is not the best place for being productive. However, several ways are offered to increase productivity at the office, – watch the video and see if they are reasonable for your workplace.

8. The power of sabbaticals

Stefan Sagmeister, owner of a design studio in New York, shares his experience with sabbaticals. In fact, they can bring long-term benefits when organized thoughtfully. Earning money is great, but it is also important not to forget about being happy. And sabbaticals are an opportunity to learn something new, achieve more in your professional area, and find harmony in your life. This detailed story about the way to happiness is definitely worth attention.

9. Unsubscribe! No, wait…

The Internet gave us access to everything, but the problem is, it gave everything access to us. We get overloaded with marketing emails, and the “unsubscribe” button doesn’t always work as supposed. James Veitch, British writer and comedian, tells two stories about his way of handling spam and marketing emails. They have nothing to do with productivity, but it’s fun: scamming the scammers and annoying the marketers is what we all want to do at some point, and Veitch provides us with an excellent example of how to do that.

10. Stress is not as bad as we tend to think

It’s a common belief that stress is bad – for health, emotional state, productivity, and any other aspect of life. Is it actually so? According to Kelly McGonigal, that’s not always true. Constant stress does cause health problems and does increase risk of dying, but according to the studies, people who spend time caring for others show no stress-related increase of risks.

In case of stress, oxytocin is produced as a response. Its effects range from enhancing empathy and craving physical contact with others to protecting cardiovascular system from negative effects of constriction. Stress makes you social, which means supporting others and being surrounded by people who care about you. This is the reason why stress is not always bad, and this is how you can turn it into your friend.