One of the largest productivity gains I ever got was going to a work computer / play computer setup.
I'd read about Paul Graham implementing it, and a few other people I respect. So when I switched over to Mac, I kept my old Toshiba for surfing the net and otherwise screwing around, and would only work or do work-like things on the Mac.
It worked well.
Not only was I more productive, I was happier. And I mean, really truly happier across the board. In the moment-by-moment, I was either fully disengaged and feeling good about it after working or when deciding to take a break. And when I was working, I focused. When I got to a hard problem, I kept going and pushed through it. It produced both more calm and more triumph. It was a good thing.
But then... eventually, things start to crack. And once they do, it's hard to get the magic up.
In poker you often win not by playing your cards, but by playing your opponents cards. My good friend and sometimes poker mentor once told me that to become a winning poker player, you must learn to win the pots that no one has a legitimate claim to. If you have an excellent hand, you'll probably win. If he has an excellent hand, he'll probably win. But if neither of you has a particularly good hand, the pot is up for grabs. It's in situations like these that rather than playing your hand, you focus on your opponents weakness.
In real life, too, I find a lot of value in working from other people's weaknesses, especially societal weaknesses. As urbanization continues along with population growth, standing out from the crowd becomes more and more difficult. Even if you are exceptional, your impression can drown amongst the sea of other people everyone is meeting. The solution, or part of it anyway, is to identify what society at large is bad at, and excel at it. By doing so, you become even more distinct as the field increases.
Here are some examples of ways I try to distance myself from the crowd.
1. Always be on time. Being late has become the standard. I never expect anyone to show up to anything on time, and I'm usually not surprised. Most people won't be terribly late, but five or ten minutes of tardiness is the norm. For the past few months I've made a point of always being on time for everything. A week or two ago I was half an hour late making a phone call, and I still remember it today because it was such an egregious violation of this standard.