Challenge yourself with a personal FedEx Day

A huge challenge for entrepreneurs and small businesses is not becoming a commodity. The nature of the small business gig is that there are other small businesses in the same niche you are, and unless you make a conscious effort to differentiate yourself, you run the risk of becoming just another dish of vanilla ice cream.

Differentiation requires innovation: new and creative products, services, or business models. Sometimes innovative ideas come to us by accident (those “Eureka!” moments), but you can’t sit around waiting for lightning to strike. You have to start building time and space into your life and business for innovation.

Here’s one way: Schedule a personal “FedEx Day.” Reserve a 24-hour block of time on your calendar to solve a nagging problem or create a new product or service for your business. Some keys for making this successful are:

  1. Start off by committing to deliver something—a rough draft, a prototype, a preliminary model for a new line of business—at the end of the 24 hours (hence the “FedEx Day” title)
  2. Pick a project that you are fired up about for some reason—maybe it is something that has pissed you off for a while, or maybe it will give you the chance to finally learn and polish that new skill you have wanted to master, or maybe you just think it’s a completely cool idea.
  3. Pick an idea that’s aggressive enough to challenge you, but not so huge that you can’t create some sort of deliverable in a day. For example: Can you write a 300-page book in a day? No, but you can write a rough draft of a 20 page white paper (which may be the foundation for a book).
  4. Focus on NOTHING ELSE during those 24 hours. Give yourself breaks to eat, sleep, bathe, exercise, etc., but don’t work on other business tasks.

Whatever you come up with at the end of those 24 hours will still need some work, but you’ll have created something that helps de-commodify your business. (The FedEx Day concept was created by the Australian software company Atlassian, and Daniel Pink says a few things about this concept in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.)

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