Actually Useful Fidgeting Techniques

You’re sitting in your desk, trying to get some work done. Maybe you’re listening to a lecture, writing a paper, or completing a task for your job. Suddenly, you feel like you could run a marathon or build an entire popsicle stick sculpture. This is incredibly poor timing. What can you do to get rid of that antsy feeling that’s keeping you from doing your work?

Put simply, there are several ways you can keep yourself focused on your work without going to sign up for a marathon. All of us get that feeling sometimes. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have ADD or ADHD, but it does mean that you may need some help pushing those energetic urges aside.

1. Get a fidget toy

So, everyone has their own opinions about fidget spinners. They were a craze that happened a year or so ago, and most people have forgotten about them by now—but they had some benefit. Several clinical psychologists and pediatric researchers looked into whether fidget spinners actually worked on kids with ADHD, and their work tells us that while they may not directly “cure” the attention span of these kids, they can work well as a sensory toy. Ultimately, fidget spinners may not work directly, but they are a good toy to mess with when you’re bored, need something to do with your hands, or just want to mess with something that isn’t your pencil.

That being said, there are other fidget toys that are way less ostentatious than the fidget spinner. Personally, the fidget cube works incredibly well in any situation. It’s a tiny cube about the size of a golf ball that has several buttons and gadgets on it. There are even some quiet buttons you can press on it that way your clacking and button hitting doesn’t annoy everyone in your class or office. It’s great for anxiety as well; it’s something to focus on when you’re feeling fidgety.

Stress balls are also amazing for getting rid of frustration and fidgeting. I have one that’s lavender scented, and it works wonders. Messing with it in class quickly relaxes me from the stress and allows me to fidget without clicking buttons.

2. Use a substitute fidget toy

If you don’t want to buy your own toy (or be spotted in public with a fidget spinner), there are other alternatives. One of my favorites is messing with unique or interesting pens. Learning how to spin your pens around your fingers is super fun and rewarding, at the benefit of impressing all of your coworkers and classmates. You don’t even have to spin them if you don’t like—just messing with the clicker and the caps or even taking your pen apart and putting it back together can work for you.

Another big one is paper clips. When I was a kid, I used to make little animals, bows and arrows, and other sculptures out of paper clips (something I may or may not still do to this day). There’s no shame in having a cadre of paper clip friends on your desk.

Worry stones are like the “adult fidget toy,” but honestly you can take any smooth rock and use it to calm down.

If worse comes to worst, chewing gum or twirling your hair can always help you from the urge to run around the office.

3. Take breaks during work

No one can work straight for hours at a time—it’s just not smart. There are several methods that can help you from the need to fidget in the first place (when you’re not in class or somewhere where you can’t always walk away from the work).

It’s generally a rule not to work for more than 90 minutes at a time. So, it’s probably a good idea to take 15 minute breaks for every hour. This isn’t a solid rule for everyone, so it might be beneficial to explore your own work ethic to see how much time you need to spend working versus the amount of time you need to take a break.

On your break, you should do something that calms you down and turns off your brain for a while. Get some water and/or a tiny snack. Color in a coloring book, doodle for a bit, listen to some music, read a few pages of your favorite book—anything to reward yourself for the hour of work you’ve done. When those 15 minutes are up (and this is the most important part): go back to another hour of work. You don’t want to get stuck in a cycle of procrastination. 15 minutes is all you need.

One of my favorite ways to separate out my time is the Pomodoro Technique. Essentially, you focus on a task for 25 minutes. After every 25 minutes is up, you take a short break. After you’ve had four pomodoros (or four sections of 25 minutes), take a longer break. It’s super easy!