I'm always on the hunt for ways to improve my own efficiency. In the early aughts, I realized I had a serious handicap. My personality tends to be a little low-key at times. Other people seem to have a powerhouse of energy stored up; I'm usually asleep by 10:30 each night. To combat my lack of energy, I've devised a few simple boosters that force me to get work done faster and finish my tasks in a timely manner.
1. Set a crazy productivity goal for the day
I sometimes challenge myself with some outlandish goal for the day, like doing all of my invoicing in an hour or editing a document by lunch. It's probably not the wisest plan, but you'd be amazed how quickly I can work if I have set a really specific goal. You might feel a little exhausted if you pound out an entire business plan in a day or call 30 sales leads every hour for an afternoon, but you'll accomplish a ton. By the way, I don't recommend doing "speed runs" for productivity too often.
2. Book a same-day flight
Admit it, you normally book flights weeks or months in advance. If you're like me, you know this gives you the best rate, helps you plan the trip more efficiently, and keeps you a little more sane. Whatever! Big productivity boosts come when we upset the apple cart and try something new. Booking a flight in the morning that leaves that same day is like pouring gas over a fire (don't ever do that). It suddenly perks up our thinking and makes you work faster. Plus, it gives you a change of scenery and, like a character said in the movie Non-Stop, gives you some peace and quiet.
3. Move that laptop
I've mentioned before how it can inspire you to move your office even for an afternoon, and how buying a new laptop can give you a new zest for work. That's not possible for everyone, but you can at least try a different perspective. In the same office, try moving your laptop over to a different position. Staring at an even slightly different section of the cubicle wall can still help. Or, just jump over to a conference room for the day.
4. Have someone call you once every hour for accountability
I'm a big fan of accountability, especially when it comes to getting more work done. Try this. Ask a friend or co-worker to call you once per hour and find out how much work you completed. Make sure it is a specific time--say, at 11 a.m. and then exactly an hour later for the rest of the day. You will know the call is coming and can keep chugging away. Note that this can also slow you down if you chat for too long. Just list off what you have done, then work hard to have an even longer list the next time your friend calls.
5. Stop what you are doing and read a book
That's right--I mean an entire book. In one afternoon. Without working. You'd think this would seriously hamper your productivity, but it really depends on the book. Try this one or this one. Or anything by this guy. Books on productivity are worth reading in their entirety because they provide tips you can apply to your workday for the next year or the next 10 years (or a lifetime). If you apply the tips you learn, the boost will be far greater than any slowdown you experience from taking the time to educate yourself.
6. Figure out your lighting situation
I've been working in a bright, sunny office all summer with an amazing view. My productivity has soared. I know it is due to the lighting. I'm sometimes in a hurry to get to the office because I know I can slam out more work. Do you spend your day in a dimly lit office or without a view of the outside world? Try moving. Having better lighting, even it involves brighter LEDs or a lamp, can improve your work speed.