Fiddling Fidget Objects
September 21, 2022 6:19 PM   Subscribe

What can I use to keep my hands busy during meetings at work?

I like to fiddle with things in my hands during meetings. I like things that are small, tactile, silent, move or bend, and are non-destructible. For whatever reason, classic fidget spinners don't do it for me (too fast?). Current go-tos are rubber bands, a stress ball, pens (although the latter tend to end up in a pile of parts.) I saw this question from 2017. Some of the links are gone and maybe there's something newer?

As asides: It has to be innocuous enough that I can use it below a desk in a meeting and wouldn't catch someone off guard if they saw. I sadly can't knit at work. I do have a watch; I don't wear jewelry.

posted by Mr Yak to Shopping (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
During long meetings I always played with a big paperclip, under the table. As I grew drowsy, my grip relaxed and I'd drop the paperclip, forcing me to reach down and pick it up, waking me up, some. Repeat until retirement.
posted by Rash at 6:24 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

For meetings I have found the best way to fidget is to either doodle or be actively taking notes. (Of course a lot of times in meetings no one is saying anything worth writing down, but that's what doodling is for.) it helps me focus on the content of the meeting instead of getting lost in my own thoughts. It's handy to not be caught off guard if someone does say something important. It's also way more satisfying to me because it has a tangible result whereas the other things I wind up fidgeting with if I don't have a pen never feel like something I'd want to do on purpose. My 2 cents.
posted by bleep at 6:29 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

I use ponytail coils, which you can get basically everywhere now and give me the exact same tactile experience as fiddling with phone cords during hours-long conversations in the 80s. The coils are very satisfying to smush together, wrap around things, wind around your fingers, and they are silent.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:37 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]

Check out this brass gear cube thingy, or several similar items if you search those terms :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:52 PM on September 21

Ok so sometimes when you open a carton of soy milk (or presumably other beverages) there's this pull-tab after you unscrew the lid and before you pour the beverage for the first time. And when it comes off, it's a ring with a built-in fidget thingy.
posted by aniola at 6:58 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

I like binder clips for this, flipping the wire arms down and up again and then squeezing it to open and close is pretty satisfying. You need to get one that's the right size for your finger strength though.
posted by rivenwanderer at 7:19 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]

I like Thinking Putty, which is silicon and nontoxic, never dries out and is surprisingly satisfying to twist and squeeze in one's hand during a Zoom meeting.
posted by virago at 7:39 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

This comes in clicky and silent versions and is as cool as heck.
posted by 10ch at 7:41 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

A wire mandala is a good fidget item that can be played with under the table. They can double as a bracelet, but since you don't wear jewelry, maybe it could be an only-if-caught bracelet.
posted by Toddles at 7:45 PM on September 21

I tie and untie knots. Specifically, I like to tie long daisy chain knots. These are basically just a braid of slip knots, so once you run of of cable/rope/shoelace/whatever you just pull it to unravel in a single satisfying pull.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 8:07 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

A ring? I have a chunky 90s plastic ring I often wear, and pull off my finger and fidget with during meetings. Totally silent and always accessible.
posted by mekily at 8:11 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

I'm in love with "accordion-style" Post-It notes designed for dispensers. You can bend them in your hand and it feels like you're shuffling a deck of cards over and over. Immensely satisfying.
posted by Diskeater at 8:29 PM on September 21

These are good suggestions! Binder clips are one of my favorites although I inevitably snap a finger in a big one and ow! The small and medium ones have less bite.

I would also like to offer an anti-suggestion. Anything that’s even somewhat sharp should be kept out of range of your wandering hands! If you’re anything like me, you’re going to end up doing something silly and have to get a band-aid during a meeting because you absent-mindedly started running your finger along the sharp edge of something metal.
posted by Brassica oleracea at 8:33 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

In strong contrast to the above anti-suggestion, I sometimes fold and unfold the pliers on a Leatherman in similar situations. Though I guess there’s a knife on it, so not totally innocuous. Looks like there’s a style without a knife built in? (I also sometimes will unfold and fold an assisted-opening knife, even less innocuous, but more fun.)
posted by supercres at 8:49 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

I like to spin a weight pen or pencil like this rotring drafting pencil. It has a decent weight to it, so it’s pretty satisfying to spin in my hand, but it might be difficult to do unobtrusively under a table.

A bracelet or a ring could be good for spinning around on your wrist or finger though while also being aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive.
posted by limbicdigest at 9:09 PM on September 21

If you did forensics in the 80s you learned at least one form of pen spinning. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it.
posted by fedward at 9:10 PM on September 21

I used to get fidget toys for ver long trainings and the plastic snake puzzles and tubes were very popular.
posted by brookeb at 10:19 PM on September 21

I recently bought some fidget toys for myself to use during zoom meetings and while watching TV. These are the ones I liked that are silent or mostly silent:

Thinking putty
Fidget cube
Fidget dodecagon

The cube and the dodecagon both have some elements that make clicking noises, but most of their elements are silent.

I also like these silicone bubble popping things but they are definitely not silent.
posted by peperomia at 11:57 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

I play with a small piece blutack or Play-Doh. Cube it, squish it, roll it, etc. The material eventually degrades and gets too sticky so then I get a new piece. I used to hide it but my team now just accepts that I need to be doing something with my hands at all times.
posted by cholly at 12:13 AM on September 22

You could make yourself a small hexaflexagon or tetraflexagon and fiddle with that, perhaps. Moves, bends, is silent, is as small as you want it to be, and is pretty robust (but if it does eventually fall apart, you can always make a new one). It doesn't look as work-related as a biro or an elastic band, but a little piece of folded paper is pretty innocuous, especially if you keep any decoration to a minimum.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:50 AM on September 22

Under those circumstances, I use wire twist ties, binder clips, hair ties (more satisfying than a rubber band), a puzzle ring I always wear, or one of these interlocking ring fidgets.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:27 AM on September 22

Aroundsquare is my go-to source of quiet, grown-up-ish fidget objects. It doesn’t have moving parts, but the knucklebone is a very pleasing and surprisingly interactive object. I linked the wooden one, as that’s my favorite, but they come in tons of materials. I usually have that, one of their deadeye coins and a fancy string of beads (not that exact one, but the same materials) in my pockets at all times. The beads are probably what I fidget with the most, but they do make a noise that might be annoying in in-person meetings. They’re quiet enough not to get picked up by my mic in zoom meetings, though, and might be acceptable in-person in some meeting cultures.
posted by duien at 12:50 PM on September 22

I use the classic slightly painful, very addictive finger massager.
posted by Morpeth at 3:01 PM on September 22

Response by poster: Fantastic suggestions. I have a whole browser window of links open and I'm looking through the options - thank you!
posted by Mr Yak at 6:45 PM on September 22

buckyballs until I discovered they give you blisters if you use them too often.
posted by bendy at 7:53 PM on September 22

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