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Three ways to make writing your next newsletter easier + faster

Getting in the habit of sending regular emails and/or newsletters to your list is viewed as “must do” business activity. And for good reason – having a highly engaged list can make your business much more successful, even if it’s a list on the smaller side.

And yet, a lot of people put off getting in to this habit because they aren’t sure where to start, or they’re worried they won’t be able to find the time, or they’ve tried to do it in the past but kept coming up blank with nothing to write about. When you try it a few times and each time it takes you two or three hours to create it, you can definitely start to question the value for time you’re getting there. Howeva! I have three quick tips, all easy to implement, that can make your next go at writing a newsletter much easier & faster.

1. Have a dedicated day &/or time to create it.

This sounds overly simple, I know. But the fact is that every time we make ourselves repeatedly schedule a recurring task, we’re wasting brainpower, time, and thought. In my experience, we – as human beings – are actually disturbingly likely to not get around to doing something because we didn’t get around to actually deciding a day/time to do it!

Instead of trying to squeeze in time to do it every week, just make it a part of your routine. For example, I send out my newsletters Friday morning. So every Thursday is the day that I write and schedule my newsletter.

I don’t get to Thursday evening or Friday afternoon and think “Oh crap, I forgot the newsletter!” because it’s already on my calendar/task list at the start of the week, and when Thursday comes around, it’s on my list of things to do, so I do it. Simple. No muss, no fuss. (To check out project & task management tools that can help you schedule your days/weeks and my reviews of them, click here.) 

2. Have a format.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just have a pre-determined list of things that go in your newsletter. For example, mine usually has an introduction, something personal about the week (sometimes short, sometimes a little longer), the blog posts for the week, interesting resources (see #3, below), and then a closing note. If I have a special promotion going that week, like the Peak Productivity Pack, I put in something about it at the beginning & end of the email.

Again – keep it simple. The point here is not to overwhelm yourself, the point is to make it so that you have to think as little as possible about the repetitive parts of this. You want to make it as easy as possible for you to get this done, so that you actually do it.

3. Make it easy for you to take notes/bookmark things throughout the week.

A big part of the reason that doing a newsletter seems so effing intimidating is that we don’t plan anything out, we don’t even have an idea of what we’ll cover, and then we freeze when we open up a totally blank email. The solution is simple: make it really easy for you to take notes and bookmark things of note throughout the week, so that you can feature them later in your newsletter – and then get in the habit of doing so.

Shenee does this really well with her Brand Notes pinboard, where she pins things of note to her that later end up in her newsletter; I use my Pretty + Useful pinboard in the same way. That technique also has the bonus of sending people from Pinterest to your website/email list & vice versa!

The other tool I use for this is Evernote – I keep a note for each week’s newsletter and as I have thoughts or ideas, I put it in the note; I also bookmark things using their website clipper.

In between using Evernote & Pinterest for this, when it comes to the day for me to write my weekly newsletter, I just open them up and immediately have a well of inspiration to draw from, and I already have a format to put it in.

This way, writing & scheduling my email newsletter always takes less than an hour (and usually takes 15-20 minutes). Pretty impressive, no?

Do you send a newsletter? What tips & tricks do you have for making it easier and faster, without sacrificing quality? 

This post is part of the June 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small biz owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Care and Feeding of Your Email List | Word Carnivals

  2. Great strategies Michelle! I’ve definitely got to get a handle on Evernote. Anything to shift this from “one more thing to do” to an opportunity to talk to great folks!

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  3. Great productivity tips, Michelle! You’re right, it really shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes (I’ll confess — I usually spend somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour) if we’ve done the homework ahead of time. I think that’s the key: collecting things as we go rather than trying to remember what bits of awesomeness you found on the interwebz earlier in the week (guilty!).

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  4. whoowee! We have a lot of Evernote lovers in the Carnival. I have used it for so long but never REALLY used it until recently and once I got into it I got addicted. Your tips are great, Michelle. Having a dedicated time for “do email” ensures you’re not going to keep bumping it to the bottom of the to-do list. And having a dedicated format means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. And now if only I could know AND do these things at the same time 🙂

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  5. Michelle these are fantastic tips. I wish I would have read them 18months ago. To me the standard format is MUST. Then time blocking is a close second.

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  6. Dedicated day/time: needs stronger commitment (right now it’s “this month” eep!)
    Format: check
    Content collection: intriguing. I was just thinking of starting a Google Spreadsheet to track the things I’d already shared (one consistent formatting item is design and social media tips, and I don’t want to repeat myself) and as a place to store up cool things I find in between newsletters. A spreadsheet is clunky though….I like the Pinterest and Evernote suggestions. (and this is already the second WordCarnival mention of Evernote!)

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  7. Excellent tips on being more productive, Michelle. Setting aside time to put the list together and collecting information as I go along are two areas where I know I’m not consistent – getting better, though. I’m not so good with Evernote, but I could certainly use Pinterest that way.

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  8. I will have to try evernote. Thanks for the suggestion. i second Evan’s comment about scheduling. I am not as consistent as I should be even though I encourage my clients to do it.

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  9. Everything is so much simpler when you are inspired, right? Aside from the act of collecting information to use and save time, I think people feel more inspired to DO the work because the little things that they have collected along the way are inspiring their creative mojo. I agree that the schedule still seems to be the most challenging for people, but if you can set up a little reward for yourself when you are finished, it definitely makes things a little easier!

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  10. Michelle, I enjoyed reading your article. I will employ these tips since I will be working on my newsletter for this quarter. I start thinking about what I desire to share early on, sort of a them, if you will and then I got from there with the structure and the writing. Using a theme works for me because it keeps me focused as I write. Thank you for all that you do.

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  11. You’re the second Carnie to bring up Evernote (Annie was the other).

    I’ve never gotten Evernote to work for me – I end up getting bigger and bigger piles (virtual piles) of great articles and never do anything with them. But I like your system of checking and cleaning it out weekly. That’s definitely something I can do.

    Great tip!

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