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Five Powerful TED Talks For Anyone Who Wants To Perform At A High Level

TED Talks Life

Let me guess…

You’re someone who wants to perform at a high level but sometimes feels stuck.

You’ve heard all the tips and tricks in the book about the 80/20 rule and even the various tips we’ve shared on how to be productive while working from home.

Despite knowing all of this, you continue to struggle time after time with productivity. Look, I get it. I’ve fallen victim to the same behavior over the last few years but I’ve figured out what works best for me and leveraged it.

But that’s the key. You need to figure out what works for you. I was able to figure out what works for me by studying the habits of some of the best makers and creators in the world. I read countless books, dissected plenty of productivity blog posts and watched the TED Talks below.

From this, I’ve been able to learn how to better manage my time, be more productive and use temporary distractions as fuel to keep going. Here are five powerful TED Talks that I’m sure will leave you inspired and with insights that will help you take your productivity to the next level:

Tim Urban – Inside The Mind of A Master Procrastinator

Tim Urban is one of the best artists of this generation. He’s the brain behind the popular stick figure blog He knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and powerful talk, he takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.

David Grady – How To Save The World (Or At Least Yourself) From Bad Meetings

An epidemic of bad, inefficient, overcrowded meetings is plaguing the world’s businesses — and making workers miserable. David Grady has some ideas on how to stop it in this short but powerful TED Talk that is sure to help you stay on track.

 Arianna Huffington – How To Get More Sleep

In this short talk, Arianna Huffington shares a small idea that can awaken much bigger ones: the power of a good night’s sleep. Instead of bragging about our sleep deficits, she urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. If you enjoy this talk, you should definitely check out Arianna’s book, Thrive. It’s filled with insights on how she built the Huffington Post empire.

Jason Fried – Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work

Jason Fried has a radical theory of working: that the office isn’t a good place to do it. He calls out the two main offenders (call them the M&Ms) and offers three suggestions to make the workplace actually work. If you haven’t read Jason Fried’s book, Rework, you’re missing out on one of the best books on productivity & business of the last decade.

Nifoler Merchant – Got a meeting? Take a Walk

Nilofer Merchant suggests a small idea that just might have a big impact on your life and health: Next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it a “walking meeting” — and let ideas flow while you walk and talk. This is a tactic that Steve Jobs used on a regular basis. If you haven’t read the Steve Jobs biography, Jobs – It’s a must read for any entrepreneur.

If you enjoyed these talks, it’s obvious that you’re someone who cares about productivity.

Which is why, I want to introduce you to the productivity tool that has changed my life, it’s called Crate. Originally, this tool was built to simply save me time when managing the social media channels of my clients. Today, it’s a tool that thousands of people are using to discover and distribute great content on social media.

Give it a test drive and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How To Be More Productive When Working From Home

Working From home

People who are able to be productive when working at home do two things very well:

First, they have established a set of processes for their day that allow them to execute and perform at a high level.

Second, they put 100% of their efforts into tactics that are going to help them achieve goals.

But you’re probably wondering:

How do you find processes and tactics that really work?

Well today, I’m going to share some of the process & tactics that have worked for me. I’m going to share with you some straightforward concepts that I believe can help you work from home more effectively and without getting caught in the trap of doing busy work when you could be shipping.

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1. Start Your Day Reviewing Goals

Do you typically sit down to your computer and wonder where to start? Or do you head straight for your email or Slack channel to see what others want you to do or want to chat about?

Both are bad habits.

Start your day by understanding what you want to accomplish. This approach is key to ensuring that your focus is where it should be. If you start your day without direction, it’s more likely that you will end up focusing on tasks that don’t matter and increase the likelihood of procrastination.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get sucked down the dark tunnel of things to do as you’re surrounded by many distractions. Ranging from the TV and Playstation to the dishes or messy bedroom; the possibilities of where you could place your focus are significant.

One of the best habits I’ve been able to utilize is the idea starting each day by looking at my goals and ending each by setting them. I like to call it the post-it note method. Before I walk away from my desk for the night, I create a small todo list and write it down on a post-it note which is then placed on my computer screen so when I get back to my desk in the morning, I clearly know what needs to be done.

It forces me to avoid Slack. It forces me to avoid email. It forces me to do the most important things first.

2. Get Dressed: Don’t Stay In Your Pajamas

One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the dress code.

Dressing down when you work from home is a perk but can have negative consequences as well. While studies have shown that there is no relationship between productivity and what you’re wearing while doing work – studies have shown that the clothes you wear can influence your state of mind.

According to Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist wearing a suit or a pajamas can influence the way you navigate your day. In an interview with Forbes she states:

When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.

So rather than constantly dressing down or not getting dressed at all – try to look good once in a while. Dress as if you were going to the office and benefit from the state of mind that comes with upgrading your wardrobe.

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3. Embrace Tools That Make You Effective

At the Global Leadership Summit, a survey of business leaders found that 34% believed more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020.

This trend is opening up a handful of opportunities for brands and startups to create products and tools that make telecommuting more effective.

If you’re going to work from home, it makes sense to surround yourself with technologies that make your experience enjoyable and effective. Here’s a look at some tools that can be helpful:



At Crate we use Trello to keep track of product development + marketing. It allows us to take an overarching look at everything going on within the company and see how things are progressing.

Our approach to using Trello has evolved since our early days (see screenshot) to be a bit more structured and time driven. We use it as a way of keeping track of immediate tasks along with our overarching roadmap for where Crate will go.

One of the companies that inspired our approach is Ghost. Ghost is a simple yet powerful publishing platform that makes it easy to share your thoughts with the world. Ghost shares their roadmap publically with a very straight forward approach: Backlog – Next – In Progress – Released.

It doesn’t get much more simple than that:

Trello - Ghost



Deekit is an online whiteboard. It is an unlimited canvas for you and your team to create content. Together, in real time. It’s self described as virtual sa pace for teamwork on any device, wherever you are. What is cool about Deekit is the fact that you have an unlimited canvas similar to a white board that you would typically on have access to for an in-person meeting.




One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is communication. Tools like Trello, Slack and Jell make it easier to communicate with your team and ensure everyone from the bottom up are informed around what’s going on.

Jell is a great tool that helps keep communication around deliverables flowing. It’s an automated stand up meeting that gives you perspective around what people are aiming to accomplish, what they did accomplish and what’s standing in their way. In addition, it’s a tool that integrates directly with Slack.

It’s easier than ever to work or even manage a team remotely. It’s no wonder that more and more companies are embracing the idea of telecommuting and remote work. Technology has made it easy which is why we’re seeing successful companies such as Buffer, Github and Automattic operate with remote teams and deliver value.

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4. Use Your Calendar To Schedule Everything

From meetings to execution – blocking off time in your schedule to tackle tasks is one of the best ways to stay productive.

It goes back to the point around knowing what you’re going to do to ensure you do it. When you block off time in your schedule for specific tasks, not only do you give yourself the time in your calendar but you also force yourself to stay focused solely on that task.

One of the biggest challenges for working at home is the ability to stay focused. Using your calendar to block off time to solely focus on, is a great way to ensure you’re not checking Facebook, notifications, emails or hanging out with your neighbors.

Focus is required to execute at a high level.

We often think that we’re great multi-taskers but studies have shown that multi-tasking as a concept doesn’t really exist. In reality, you’re simply switching back and forth between tasks which hinders your ability to execute within a set amount of time but also limits your ability to execute as your focus is split up amongst multiple tasks.

5. Listen To High Tempo Music

In a recent study conducted by Dr. Dennis Hsu and his colleagues’ on psychological empowerment, they found that the right background music can help you absorb information and improve your willingness to take initiative. In one experiment, the researchers tested whether empowering music made people behave as if they were more powerful.

After listening to music, participants were asked if they would rather go first or second in a debate. Those who listened to the high-temp playlist (songs like In Da Club from 50 Cent) opted to go first almost twice as often (34%) as those who’d listened to the low-temp playlist (20%).

Further experiments found that in certain situations, the right music can also empower you to do more. For example, researchers found that the level of bass, volume, tempo, genre, and lyrics, all had the potential to drive empowerment. It’s something that anyone who has played sports or watched sports can understand. It’s the reason why so many athletes walk into stadiums with headphones on or why stadiums blast music pre-game to get the teams fired up.

When you’re working at home, you have control over your environment. Use high tempo music to create a setting that gives you the best chances to perform.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Up The Setting

A change in your environment can stimulate creativity and limit the likelihood of burnout.

You can switch up your setting in your own house or by actually getting out and about. As someone who has a home office, the office definitely is my favorite place to work but once in a while, I do tend to make my way to the kitchen or living room. We all know the idea that routine is the enemy of creativity – so to avoid it, switch up your setting!

Rather than just moving from room to room, you can also move your work to a nearby coffee shop, bar or hotel. Sites like Workfrom will help you discover the best coffee shops, bars, coworking spaces and other work-friendly places in cities and towns all over the world:


Public Service Announcement: If you’re going to work from a coffee shop, please order something. Don’t be the cheapskate who milks their wifi for three hours and only drinks a glass of water. If you’re using their chairs, tables, electricity and wifi – pay for something. The only time it’s okay to simply use the wifi and facilities for free is if you’re at a public library.

Here’s the next step.

If you want to avoid even more distractions, avoid the things that suck your time and energy. Social media and the various notifications we recieve can be one of the biggest hooks for grabbing our attention. You could start off just simply wanting to share a link on Twitter to keep your account active but 20 minutes later find yourself browsing a blog.

Tools like Crate can save you from getting caught in this cycle. Crate allows you to schedule your content for the week well in advance and offer content suggestions that are sure to resonate with your audience. Sign up for Crate today and be more productive with your time on social media.

Click here and get started today.

Six Habits That Will Make Your Mornings More Productive

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the strategies that have helped me have one of my most productive years ever. I’ve been able to launch two new startups, write a book, maintain a six-figure marketing consultancy, get married and travel.

And I owe it all to how I manage my mornings.

Or at least, some of it…

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about six different habits that I’ve adopted over the last few years and have tried to stick to as much as possible. Some I’ve stuck with and others are more dependant on the circumstance and what’s going on. I’m not going to lie and suggest that I’ve been perfect but I will admit that these habits have changed the game for me. Some days I forget one or two things on this list but for the most part, this is my go-to approach for starting my day with optimal productivity and effectiveness.

Some days I forget one or two things on this list but for the most part, these are some habits that I’ve learned from some of the best. So let’s get to it – Here are six habits that I want you to steal and apply to your own life. Even if it’s just for a couple weeks, give them a try and let me know how things turn out:

Start The Day With Lemon & Water

Lemon Ginger

When life gives you a lemon… squeeze it, mix it with six ounces of distilled water and drink twice daily.

The human body is more than 60% water but most of us often forget to drink a single glass before noon. And no – that cup of coffee doesn’t count.

Over the last three months, I’ve been making it a habit to include a half of lemon in my morning glass of water. I picked up this habit after hearing from my wife that she was told from her yoga instructor that it was good for the body. So I decided to do a little digging…

What I found is that a simple slice of lemon can make a big difference.

According to Life Hacker  the benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning are real.

  1. A glass of lemon water flushes out the toxins in your body by enhancing enzyme function and stimulating your liver.
  2. The most important part for me, is that lemon water provides your body with energy when it enters your digestive tract. Some people have made claims that they’ve been able to get off caffeine entirely because of the switch – I’m not ready for that.
  3. The more lemon water you drink, the more likely it will decrease the acidity in your body, which is connected to the likelihood of disease. It removes uric acid in your joints as well which is one of the main causes of inflammation.

Before you run off and start chugging back Lemons, you need to take a few precautions.

First, I always pluck the seeds out of my lemons before squeezing the juice into my bottle. Some people have a lemon press – I’d recommend it if you’re not one for getting messy.

Second, studies have shown that while lemon water can aid digestion, provide nutrients, boost your immune system and more – the acid in lemon juice can erode your teeth enamel. A couple ways to avoid that is to: (1) Drink with a straw so the acidic liquid goes down immediately, (2) make sure your portions have more water than juice and (3) don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after having your drink.

End Your Day By Creating A To-Do List

How many times have you sat at your desk and frantically had to figure out what to do?

It happens far too often.

Five years ago, I can across the idea of writing my to-do list for the following day before I left the office so I could get right to execution upon my arrival. While some people would look around for direction and scramble to their emails – I knew exactly what needed to be done.

Personally, I feel lost when I don’t have my to-do list next to me. I can quickly find myself stumbling through tasks and making the mistake of accepting the idea of multitasking instead of getting the right tasks done.

One of the biggest lessons I learned about my to-do list was the importance of keeping things simple. A few years back I bought a notebook that had the ultimate to-do list. It required me to write out how much time was being put into each task, the category in which it should fall (family, work, health, etc) and a priority scale in terms of importance.

It was fun…for a week. But this approach was way too specific for me.

Today my to-do list looks like this:

Johnny Cash ToDo List

I’m kidding.

That’s the todo list of the great Johnny Cash.

But the simplicity of this todo list is very similar to mine.

Even the comedian Drew Carey understands the importance of productivity. Drew outsourced the development of a productivity strategy to David Allen, the Author of the classic book; Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity who taught him the value of to-do lists.

Studies believed that creating a to-do list wasn’t the answer for trying to be productive. Research found that the Zeigarnik effect, an internal nagging caused people to be over stressed as tasks were always left incomplete. But recent research has shed a different perspective between the conscious and unconscious and our to-do lists.

The unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan. The unconscious mind apparently can’t do this on its own, so it nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders.

This means, create a to-do list but include a timeline for when certain tasks will be done. If you have to write a blog post today – write ‘today’ next to that empty box. If you have to clean your desktop this week – write ‘by Friday’ next to that empty box. From there, execute within your timeframes and you won’t suffer from the internal mental kung fu that can occur.

Tools For Managing Your To-Do List:


Wunderlist - Todo List

Wunderlist is self-described as the easiest way to get stuff done. Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist is here to help you tick off all your personal and professional to-dos.

Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist is a great tool for ticking off both your personal and professional to-dos.

Tick Tick

Tick Tock

Tick Tick is a lightweight app for organizing work projects, grocery lists, and more. The interface is very simple making it easy to manage and execute your tasks. The app even allows you to create geolocation reminders that send you a notification upon arriving or leaving a specific location.

Working seamlessly across multiple platforms, Tick Tick is a great to-do list and task management app.


One of the most popular task management apps, helps you get things done by syncing everything from personal and work projects directly to your device. Similar to other apps, this tool makes it easy to check things off but what I like most is the slick design and categorization of tasks.

Don’t Answer Any Emails Until After 10 AM

Stop checking your email first thing in the morning.


David Karp, the mastermind behind Tumblr understands the value of avoiding email first thing in the morning.

I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10AM. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive. If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.

Don’t get me wrong, David Karp has the luxury of being able to jump on a Vespa and pull into the office whenever he wants. The idea of not checking your email first thing in the morning has been encouraged by Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins and more. But it’s still typically met with one of these responses:

1) That’s a brilliant idea


2) There’s no way I would be able to do that

A study conducted at King’s College London University found that constantly checking your email leads to a functional drop of 10 IQ points. We already spend more than 13 hours of our week on email so why start your day with something so draining?

Make it a habit to wait. And if someone really needs you, it’s likely they’ll swing by your desk or give you a call. Own your schedule. Own your inbox.

Arrive At The Office Before Everyone Else

Early to bed early to rise, keeps a man healthy wealthy and wise. – Benjamin Franklin

When you’re the first person to turn on the lights in the office there’s a bit of satisfaction that comes along with it. You can be the first to get a cup of coffee and the first to turn on their laptop before tackling the day.

What’s even more important is that when you’re the first one in the office, there is no opportunities for distraction. You won’t have anyone to ask you to resend that email or quickly come for a walk to discuss their latest project. The ability to focus is at an all-time high and an opportunity you should capitalize on while you can.

Instead, you can focus on the tasks you laid out for yourself the night before. The act of getting to work before everyone else also forces you to wake up early. One of the most common traits amongst successful people is how early they wake up. Here are a few examples:

  • Jack Dorsey: 5:30AM
  • Richard Branson: 5:45AM
  • Indra Nooyi: 4:00AM
  • Dan Akerson: 4:30AM
  • David Cush: 4:15AM
  • Tim Cook 4:30AM

Each of these early risers operate billion dollar empires. It’s not easy getting up early but making it a habit and getting to the office before others can lead to many benefits. From the influence it will have on how people perceive you to your own ability to execute without distraction – this is a simple habit that could play a huge role in the acceleration of your career.

Not an early bird?

This visual from Anna Vital of Funders & Founders is a great look at how you can get up earlier. Steal some of these ideas and implement them in your own day to day:

Establish A Morning Routine That You Enjoy

Headphones - Morning Music

It’s always easier to wake up when you have something to look forward to.

It could be a special breakfast.

It could be a special beverage.

It could be a book that you only read in the morning.

When you do this, it gives you something to invigorate your mind. If your work doesn’t inspire you to hop out of bed in the morning, find something else that can. It could be as simple as setting your alarm to your favorite pump up track to get your blood flowing and adrenaline pumping.

Optimize Your Sleeping Circumstances

Beer Before Bed

Studies show that the quality of your sleep is just as important as the act of getting some sleep.

Have you ever had a restless night where you toss and turn but don’t know why?

The variables that go into making a potential great sleep are plentiful. Understanding some of these variables and optimizing your circumstances to give you the best chances for a great sleep is key. A lot of people have false assumptions around what goes into a great sleep and what they can do before bed that can help ensure of one.

One of the most common late night mistakes made by people is the idea of having a nightcap before bed. The assumption that a little booze before bed is a good thing has been recently proven false by multiple studies. In fact a recent study found that just two or more drinks can negatively impact your REM sleep which can have a huge impact on your output the next day. Other studies found that regardless of how much you drink, alcohol increases the speed in which you fall to sleep in which you fall into deep sleep but increase the amount of disruption in the second half.

“Alcohol on the whole is not useful for improving a whole night’s sleep. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deeper sleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldn’t expect better sleep with alcohol.” Source

Ok, so booze won’t help – Where can you turn to optimize your sleep?

There are a few things you can do.

1) Use Sleep Tracking Applications

Sleep Tracking AppI’ve been using SleepCycle for the past four years and it’s one of my favorites. The application allows you to track your sleeping patterns and analyze the data to gain insight about how well you’re sleeping or how much sleep you’re getting. You just place your phone on your mattress and set the alarm. The app will then track both sound and movement to determine when is the optimal time for waking you up.

One of the more recent and clinically validated sleep trackers is called Beddit. I’ve never tried it but it’s a slick evolution to SleepCycle and is a tracking service I could definitely see myself using. Check out this video of the Beddit in action:

2) Eat Foods That Accelerate Rather Than Hinder Sleep

Most people don’t realize but the amino acid, tryptophan is a building block for the sleep-related chemical serotonin.  Turkey is a well-known tryptophan source (unofficially the reason for your post-Christmass dinner nap), but turkey is not the only source. Eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts all carry about equal amounts of tryptophan making them a great alternative for a late night snack,

The obvious sleep buffer is anything with caffeine. I know you’re thirsting for that cup of coffee but don’t drink it too close to bed. The same goes for that delicious chocolate bar or bag of skittles you forgot you left in your coat pocket after the movies. Sugar and caffeine are two ingredients that will keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

3) Create The Optimal Environment

Between our laptops, IPads, smartphones and  Apple watches – our bedrooms are filled with flashing lights. Who needs a night light this day and age when there’s a flashlight stuck to our phone? The issue is, all of these lights are not good for someone looking to have a quality night sleep. In fact, all of this light can result in health problems long term.

Take this excerpt from a discussion on light and its impact on sleep from io9:

The part of your brain that controls your biological clock is a group of cells in the hypothalamus. These cells respond to light and dark signals. The optic nerves in our eyes senses light and transmits a signal to the SCN telling the brain that it’s time to wake up. It also kickstarts other processes, like raising body temperature and producing hormones like cortisol. Our cortisol levels are relatively low at night, allowing us to sleep, and higher during the day, allowing for the stabilization of energy levels and the modulation of immune function. But LAN unnaturally elevates cortisol levels at night, which disrupts sleep and introduces a host of problems relating to body-fat levels, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.

In a nutshell: Sleep + Light = Tossing & Turning.

The best environment for a great sleep is a pitch black room. Shut your blinds, turn off devices, don’t sleep with the TV on and cover up your clock as well. Whatever you can do to make your room as dark as it can be will increase the likelihood of a solid sleep.

Wrapping Things Up

You now know some of the habits I’ve tried to adapt into my own life.

Now it’s time for you to put these habits into practice.

The First Step?


Studies show that when you commit to something in public, you’re more likely to follow through. So let me know which habit you’re going to try to adopt. Comment, tweet me, send me an email or tell a friend.


This blog post was written by Ross Simmonds, co-founder of Crate – a content curation tool that helps save you time from hunting for great content to share online. Sign up for Crate today and start sharing content that your audience wants.