This is my year of finally putting many of my big plans and ideas into action. One of my main objectives for years now (four to be exact) has been to send out a newsletter. I had all kinds of reasons why it wasn’t happening: too busy, have to revive old mailing lists, need to somehow get all of the emails from all of the business cards into a database (to my defense, at the beginning of last year, I did send a box of business cards to CloudContacts, but they went under before I made the time to do anything with my list of contacts), need to put an email capture form on my website (finally did that last May), have the design the newsletter to match my website (and my website needed to be updated), etc, etc, blah blah blah. You get the picture. It all added up to a lot of me doing nothing short of moving the task from one to-do list to the next, but never quite making the time to get it done.
Most likely, I could have gone like that for another year, except I received divine intervention in early January in the form of my friend Dr. Anna B. Scott. She pinged me on Google chat to ask a question. I told her about having to do a newsletter and she answered with this:
“what’s the status, and do you have a flow?
i need to get out a newsletter as well.
do you want to do challenge today to have them done?”
The status was that they weren’t done, merely looming as Yet Another Thing To Do. Did I have a flow? Nope, none to speak of. Did I want do a challenge? Absolutely!
“in 30 minutes, we will each share a document in Google Docs with a rough draft of our intro to our newsletter, starting…
And just like that, it was ON. Because I already had a good idea of how I wanted to structure the newsletter and the content that I wanted to cover, I started writing. And guess what? At the 27 minute mark, I was DONE.
Buoyed by my productivity triumph, I realized that this was a great approach to getting almost anything done — especially stuff that seems like it’s A Big Deal, but which doesn’t have to be.
So, here’s how you write a newsletter in 30 minutes or less:
- Sketch out ideas for content ahead of time. Even better, focus the newsletter content around an upcoming event, blog post, article, or something that you want to talk about so that you have a theme (I LOVE themes for writing!). For my newsletter, I wanted to highlight my upcoming event in Zurich at the end of January called Creativity Goes to Work, so I made the content of the newsletter center around creativity and engagement at work.
- Commit to writing through a distraction-free 25-30 minute sprint. You can use the Pomodoro Technique or whatever else you want, but the parameters are the same: no phone, no checking email, no social media notifications. If your will isn’t strong enough, you may want to block distracting websites with an app or a browser extension.
- Team up with a partner. Find another friend/buddy/colleague who needs to work on something similar or who just needs to bust something out and would like the structure to do so. The accountability is extra incentive to get it done, because rolling up with them having something for you the review and you having nothing would be awkward, to say the least.
Once the seemingly hard work of the initial draft was written, I got the newsletter content into my newsletter app of choice, MailChimp, and then went to work designing the look of the newsletter. Yes, choosing the images, editing, and revamping took more than 30 minutes, but that initial push was the most important step to getting the process started, and most importantly, completed.
And isn’t that really what we need most of the time?
Full disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by MailChimp