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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is watching TED Talks. Besides providing great informational value, they’re also really entertaining and serve as examples of well-done presentations and public speaking. So, in honor of finals week, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite TED Talks. Happy procrastination!

Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

No list of TED Talks and procrastination can start with anything other than Tim Urban’s “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.” In his hilarious and relatable talk, Urban investigates what drives procrastination and what enables us procrastinators to finally get work done. Reward yourself with a break while learning how to conquer your procrastination.

This is What Happens When You Reply to Spam Email

Tired of spam emails? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried responding? Stand-up comedian James Vietch recounts his experiences in his brilliant Ted Talk, “This is What Happens When You Reply to Spam Email.” Watch to learn how to troll the worst of spammers.

Cloudy with a Chance of Joy

If comedy isn’t your thing, another one of my favorites is “Cloudy with a Chance of Joy” by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Cloud-watching is a favorite pastime of movie characters, but how often do we actually stop and do it ourselves? When we’re feeling stressed it’s especially important to set time aside to simply sit outside and relax, doing absolutely nothing.

Why You Should Make Useless Things

Still not convinced about just doing nothing? Check out Simone Giertz’s TED Talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things.” In just 11 minutes, she goes through why it’s okay to make things like a toothbrushing helmet or a haircutting drone. While none of her inventions necessarily achieve anything new, and quite honestly probably don’t provide any value beyond entertainment, they’re all really funny and a reminder that if your goal is to learn then playing — not performing — should be the expectation. It’s okay to not master things on the first or even tenth attempt, but what matters is your approach. 

10 Seconds of Courage: Life Lessons from a Fighter

Tackling finals is also absolutely about state of mind. Saying, “I’m bad at tests” or “I can’t write good essays” is not a good way to think. In her talk “10 Seconds of Courage: Life Lessons from a Fighter,” Nadine Champion reminds us all that sometimes when fighting an uphill battle, the best tactic is to “change your thinking” since “the only thing that you can ever control in response to a hard situation is your reaction, your thinking.” In light of finals and grades, it’s important to remember to not let them break you. Champion’s thoughtful and kind words are a great lesson for the end of the semester and life.

The Dangers of a Single Story

Another one of my favorites is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Dangers of a Single Story.” Ask anyone who’s watched it, and they’ll tell you how amazing it is. This talk reminds us to open our minds and not limit our perceptions of others and places based on individual past experiences and the media. A closed mind is always dangerous, but we often don’t even realize our perception of something is based on a single story of it. 

Why You Should Ask Out Your Crush

Another common issue people have during finals week is a fear of failure. To distract yourself from this, I recommend watching Alex Le’s TED Talk, “Why You Should Ask out Your Crush.” Funny but grounded in logic, Le reminds us of the importance of “standing strong in the face of fears” and that life is a “continuous opportunity to grow into the person you want to be.” He argues that facing fear creates courage and confidence and we shouldn’t base our whole lives around whether or not we can succeed at something. If you do fail your finals, it’s not the end of the world. Time keeps ticking and you’ll get past it, but you deserve the credit for at least trying.

Please, Please, People: Let’s Put the ‘Awe’ Back in Awesome

Think these TED Talks are awesome? Check out Jill Shargaa’s talk, “Please, Please, People: Let’s Put the ‘Awe’ Back in Awesome.” Shargaa’s energy is contagious and will get you pumped up while also challenging you to think critically about your daily use of the word. In using “awesome” too often, it lowers the bar of what can be considered “awesome.” She then humorously describes ten things that really are awesome. I would say her talk is “awesome,” but entertaining is probably a more precise word.

What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness

This next TED Talk is, “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness” by Robert Waldinger. Waldinger reports to us on a 75-year-old study of men now in their 90s. The study, conducted on happiness, tracked 724 men, half of them Harvard-educated and half from the poorest parts of Boston. Waldinger reports that the key to happiness is good relationships based on social connections, rather than those who isolate themselves to achieve success. It’s definitely harder to stay in touch with friends when everything is virtual, but definitely take time out of your week to check in with them. Your mood will increase, which will likely help you perform better on your exams.

The Power of Self-Motivation

The final TED Talk on my list is Nakia Gelin’s “The Power of Self-Motivation.” Gelin reminds us of the difficulties of being a student, including how easy it is to get distracted, but she reminds us of the key steps to being self-motivated: taking initiative and remaining optimistic. Watch this talk for more tips on staying motivated during finals week and beyond. With attitude, belief, commitment, and drive you have the tools to succeed.

Now that you’ve enjoyed these talks, I wish you all the best of luck on your final exams, projects, and papers. Cheers to ending this semester!

Carina Layfield

Columbia Barnard '23

Carina is a senior at Barnard majoring in Urban Studies and minoring in Italian. In her free time she enjoys discovering new recipes and spending time outside. She can be reached at crl2149@barnard.edu or @carina.layfield on Instagram.