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The Power of Small Distractions

Over the years we’ve all seen various desk objects that were more than likely gifts from someone who had no idea what to get, opting instead for a gender neutral item, suitable for work space. Brookstone and Sharper Image were at the head of the curve for categorizing and promoting this “New Age” like approach to serenity, focus, and creativity, enhanced by these purchases. I scoffed at the idea. Even handling some of the doodads seemed excessive and at the very least, a dust collector. Would anyone buy one for him/herself?

Well, “bah-humbug” and fast forward to new research and the power of these small distractions. According to studies done at the NYU School of Engineering, playing with everyday objects at work may boost creativity and help workers de-stress and stay on top of their mental game. Perhaps we all engage in some unconscious hand movement, tapping a pen or playing with a paper clip, but with more of us keyboarding and not needing pages to gather, what else might we turn to? Researchers suggested some of the following as examples and avoid driving your co-workers too crazy at the same time. 1. Rubber toy: Squeezing one helps vent frustration and lighten the mood. 2. Pen: Clicking a retractable point rapidly and repeatedly can stimulate the mind just enough to sustain attention through mundane tasks. 3. Magnets: Fiddling with smooth, plastic coated magnets from a dry-erase board provides tactile stimulation and keeps the hands busy. 4. Executive Sandbox: Playing with sand is relaxing and can spark conversation. A compact set-up combines an easy to handle blend of sand and polymer. 5. Smooth Stones: Running the hand over a surface that is pleasing or soothing to the touch can evoke a meditative state and help screen out external stimuli. 6. Slinky: Stretching and bending a wire coil during long, tedious conference calls can keep the mind busy enough to avoid bigger distractions like e-mail. 7. Coat Toggle: Pressing and releasing a spring-loaded device provides a satisfying tactile experience that can stimulate creative problem solving.

What is your immediate goal? Try one and see if it’s a good match for you. • Stress reduction • Focus • Creativity


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