A couple of days ago, Ramses Oudt @rroudt tweeted an excellent question on Twitter that generated a discussion concerning who writes newsletters focussed on learning how to learn. You can see the thread here which has some recommendations although I might add that many of them aren’t about tips, techniques and strategies for learning how to learn.
I’m compiling a list of newsletters about learning.
What are your favorites? Links appreciated! 🙏
— Ramses Oudt (@rroudt) August 4, 2020
This has been an area of interest of mine and in the past, I didn’t sign up to newsletters simply because they were usually selling services that I wasn’t interested in. Sometimes, I was automatically subscribed to newsletters. My inbox was full enough with spam, I didn’t want anymore.
However, in recent times, as a Community Manager for Adopt & Embrace, I needed to build some new skills in the area of community management which meant I had to go exploring various resources that could help me out.
There’s tons of stuff online, podcasts, articles, courses, books, communities for community managers, you name it for the topic of communities. You can get LOST in it all. However, at the same time, I also had to create our own fortnightly newsletter for our A&E Community of Change Managers and I pondered how I should make it relevant for my own community. After all, I didn’t want to spam people with more email.
So my approach was two-pronged: I was learning about community management and building newsletters WHILE also building and managing a community and creating a newsletter with Active Campaign.
I needed a place to start because I knew that many people like me, siphoned their emailed newsletters into inboxes never to see the light of day again.
My first action was to consider my own actions towards newsletters. Over time, I noticed a pattern in the newsletters I had subscribed to – and looked forward to reading every week and they were usually from people who:
- May not always be on social networks such as Twitter
- They write long form posts
- Show and share the process of their work (or curate it in some form)
- Write more about their experiments and dabbles than generic theoretical type articles
I figured that if I’m reading their work, I may as well subscribe so that I never miss any of their writing because I was getting so much value from it. I’m happy to say that I’m now a convert to newsletters as being great resources for your learning plans – but you really need to put some time in to read these and constantly check how much value you’re getting out of them.
Here’s what I do:
- Ask myself, “do I love this person’s writing and what they’re sharing because it resonates with a need of mine – such as learning XYZ?” You usually know this by thinking about how often you go searching for their work. If you’re constantly referring to their work, blogs, videos, articles…and they have a newsletter? Subscribe.
- “Do they share consistent value such as tips, techniques, strategies, links, resources, recommendations that help you in your work?” based on their own research and experimentation. Subscribe.
- “Are they the first people you go to when looking for services such as consulting or courses or their books even though you may not be ready to purchase?” Subscribe.
Here’s some of my practices when it comes to learning from newsletters:
- I only subscribe to less than five newsletters at any one time and all related to topics that I am learning about (or have an interest in). For example, I subscribe to 2 x community management newsletters (one I will be unsubscribing soon) and a few others around topics I’m interested in
- Newsletters automatically go into an email inbox and which I go through every week. (I have sets of rules on all my emails to automatically go into different inboxes)
- If the newsletter does not have me going down a rabbit hole, clicking on links, sharing links on Twitter or LinkedIn or making me think or write a blog post for more than a few months of being a subscriber, I unsubscribe.
- I turn on the ‘rich experience’ because I prefer to read something that is visually appealing than just the plain text (that’s just me).
- If the newsletter only shares links to their services or upcoming events, I will unsubscribe.
I have found some of the excellent newsletters to be more like a set of curated links that pull together main topic or theme ideas to explore. Of course, people who curate these take lots of time to create these so no wonder that many of them are now asking people to pay for a subscription to them. I have no qualms in paying for this if I know that what I get in my inbox every week are excellent set of curated resources. In my head, they’ve just saved me some time filtering through the internet.
I had a newsletter for this blog some time back and it was taking me ages to curate the links and create it every month. You may have subscribed to it? When GPDR came about, I reconsidered whether I was to continue it and decided against it. I had people email me to tell me that they found it valuable because it presented some ideas and actions that I hadn’t shared on my blogs and were helping them implement in their work. Someone mentioned to me that they used my links for a course they were creating to sell to others!
In hindsight, I should have monetised Activate My Learning newsletter and spent more time on that because even though people may not have been ready to buy some consulting services or workshops from me but they were getting value out of links, ideas and suggestions I was making to build out their own learning and organisational plans.
So I would say, consider subscribing to newsletters and incorporate them into your personal learning plan but like anything, you still need to consider and scrutinise their value over time.
Like anything, honing, refining and filtering information content is an ongoing exercise for any continual and lifelong learner.