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What gets you through the workday?

Anthony Balderrama, writer

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Remember when you were a child at the doctor's office and had to get a shot? Your parents probably told you to squeeze their hands or think about the big ice cream cone they would buy you if you were good. Whatever they said, the goal was to make the experience as painless as possible.

Sometimes, a day at work is like that pesky shot. It's unpleasant but you can't escape it. Every job, whether you love it or hate it, has a day where you need some diversion to get through the day without taking your frustration out on your poor, defenseless computer keyboard.

So what is the grown-up equivalent of squeezing your mom's hand?

Treat yourself right
Sam Spear finds running the technology site rewarding and even fun, but on some days he needs to forget about the chaos for a few minutes. To step away from it all, he strolls over to a nearby convenience store to buy one lottery ticket.

"It gets me out, it gives me something to hope for and it's just enough of a distraction that by the time I get back to my desk I'm ready to plow through the rest of the day," he says. "Getting the half-Slurpee, half-Dr. Pepper on occasion helps as well."

Giving yourself a treat can help you unwind just enough to jump back into a hectic day. At the offices of, Jenn de la Vega enjoys a perk few companies offer: a chair that can give Swedish and shiatsu massages for 15 minutes at a time.

"We have a fun open office with a staff that gets along pretty well -- but if I had bad sleep or the afternoon is dragging on, I'll sit in the massage chair for a couple minutes to wake me up," she says.

Four legs good, two legs bad
For some workers, quality time with their four-legged friends can make a long day bearable. Perhaps because cats can't talk back or dogs are always in a good mood, a midday break with a pet can give you a much-needed recharge.

"For the past five years, I've gone home every day at lunch to take my [black pug] Dolce for a walk," says Gianna Vivo, director of marketing for Flexi Software. "Seeing her and getting outside for a bit -- it's a great way to break up the workday and decompress."

Rebecca Boehmer, an account executive at public relations agency ParkerWhite, appreciates a little playtime with Ziggy, the office maltepoo. "It's incredibly relaxing and while on the walk I have a chance to sort through my thoughts and clear my head."

Go positive
Just because you've grabbed a fistful of hair several times today and you've got a bald spot on the back of your head doesn't mean you should focus on the negative. Looking at what's going right in your day or even in your life can change your attitude. Remember the ice cream cone your parents used to coax you through the pain?

Real estate broker Caroline Glidden used to spend six minutes of each work hour writing down what she was appreciative for at that very moment. Now she just does it when the mood strikes her in order to stay positive.

Tabitha Grace Smith, a social media strategist, also focuses on the brighter side of things. "When a day at work is particularly dragging, I try to send off a couple e-mails to people to tell them how much I appreciate them -- or thank them -- both at work and in my life. [It] makes my day go by much faster when I'm being positive!"

A little bit of everything
Workers are obviously not following any template to get through the day. As long as their tricks keep them from punching a computer monitor -- or a co-worker -- everybody wins. So here are just some of the other ways workers are following the light at the end of the tunnel:

· Karen DeSemple, head of belly casting company Eternal Maternal, keeps a humorous picture as her computer background. "It's a Happy Bunny cartoon that simply says, 'Sucky losers not allowed.'  It reminds me that sucky losers aren't the ones that become successful, and it actually motivates me to keep going."

· Because Lisa Cotter Metwaly wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to open her restaurant, Q Kindness Café, the early hours catch up to her midday. She brings a mat to work and takes a half-hour nap on it to stay energized.

· Laurice Gilbert divides her day into 30-minute blocks of time to better handle tasks. Every half-hour she performs some distracting task, whether it's watering plants, folding laundry or dancing by herself for a few minutes.

· Tom Cristel takes a break from his duties as vice president of marketing for Yooplus to go to a lunch-hour swim club. He finds the repetitive activity allows his mind to wander while improving his health.

· The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year for Diana Myre, a marketing administrator at Comstar, so she tries to enjoy it whenever she can. On a bad day she'll turn on Christmas music and remember favorite holiday moments.

What do you do to make the workday more enjoyable? Share your ideas at The Work Buzz.

Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 02/12/2011 - 1:43 PM

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