CreativityEngaging Culture

Some Distractions Can Actually Help You Be More Creative

Today, the world is filled with distractions. Email and social media are two of the biggest culprits that rob creative people of focused concentration. There’s also listening to music, watching TV, or allowing people to interrupt your work. I’ve written plenty on this blog about how to avoid distractions, but to be fair, I need to mention that certain distractions can actually help creativity. The fact is, you can’t sit at a desk or in a meeting for hours on end without some type of break. I used to shoot baskets outside the office to break the routine, and now that I have a granddaughter, you’ll often find me in the middle of the day pushing her stroller around the block.

Sometimes gadgets spark creativity. That’s why on the desk of many creatives you’ll find a Slinky, Yo-Yo, or squishy rubber ball. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “Researchers at NYU are studying how 40 workers use various gadgets, from infant chew toys to Slinkys, gobs of adhesive putty and ballpoint pens, to help focus, ease anxiety and jump-start creative thinking, says Michael Karlesky, a doctoral student at NYU’s engineering school. He is conducting the study with his adviser, Katherine Isbister, research director of NYU’s Game Innovation Lab and author of two books on computer game design and research.”

The report also says: “Certain kinds of hand movements have an impact on cognitive functioning, improving focus or sparking fresh thinking or faster learning, according to several recent studies. Researchers at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering are exploring how fiddling with desk gadgets might yield some of those benefits on the job. The research holds clues to how people who feel restless or confined by computer work might find the physical stimulation and stress release they need in behavior that they would have been scolded for in elementary school—fidgeting.”

Email, social media, and other distractions rarely help because they’re similar to what you’re already doing. But taking a walk around the block, shooting a few baskets, or simply playing with a Slinky can often switch your thinking enough to kick-start new ideas.

Share with us what you use. What gadgets are on your desk, or what physical distractions do you use to give your creative day a shot in the arm?

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  1. Social media and the web in general helps me a lot. In fact i do most of my living there. There is plenty of research that corroborates the fact that intelligent AND aesthetic surroundings are good for the mind.

  2. A friend recently got me a tin of Thinking Putty. I keep it on my desk and when I need to de-stress or just take a break, I open the tin and squeeze and pull the putty as needed. (For those that are interested, here is the website:

  3. Pinterest helps me gather information visually and once I’ve created a board, I’m able to overview all the ideas at once which sparks new ideas. It’s an immense help for me!

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