I have a Rubik’s cube.
Often I’ll be sat staring into space and solving it and then scrambling it again at my desk. This is not so that I can annoy my neighbours with the sound.
It’s also because the human mind is a strange and wonderful thing and as everyone I’m sure has noticed, the solution to problems often comes to you when you’re washing the pots, walking home, driving or any of a thousand other tasks that require low level concentration. There’s a reason that high creativity jobs tend to be more lax about things like internet access, have good communal areas and generally are quite relaxed. Programming, testing and all facets of tech fall under this umbrella. There are probably people who can sit down and do nothing but push out excellent code all day, or start testing something and manage to cover everything in a methodical way and not have to rely on a bolt from the blue for their extra stretch to really push the software in a way that it wasn’t expecting. I’ve never met that person, but with seven billion I’m sure they exist somewhere.
I have done several different things to give myself the mental space to solve problems in the past, the latest is a Rubik’s cube. During a couple of days where I was testing multiple builds and spending about a third of the time looking at a progress bar, I taught myself to do a Rubik’s cube, using one I found in the break room of my office. (Almost like it was put there by someone who knew that people like to be distracted when thinking… )
Now I can solve it every time in under a minute, but that’s just practice, the actual solution is always rote application of algorithms. What it does do though is keep my hands and some level of my mind busy. So I will be sat there looking into to space, or at my cube and intentionally not thinking about work. This is probably when most of the actual brain work for my job is done.
Essentially I am saying that if you don’t have something like knitting, puzzles, or crosswords to occupy your mind when you’re working, it’s likely that you’ll spend a lot of time not doing effective work anyway. You might find that a little diversion could turn out to be a shortcut.