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Getting better at newsletters, maybe

by Tim Severien

Yesterday, Chris Coyier shared his system to consume newsletters in his blog post: How To Newsletters. This reminded me that my inbox is littered with them. All of which I want to read, but can’t find the mode for. Similarly to what Chris describes, it feels a little too much like a work-related chore to me. Unlike Chris, I don’t use Feedbin, and want to try an idea I’ve been toying with for years.

Many of my newsletters are, indeed, work-related — lists of web development and software engineering opinion pieces, updates on features and specs, and showcases. They keep me up-to-date, help me shape principles on new and emerging technology, and generally help me grow as a web developer and software engineer. This is one part passion, but I also need them to stay relevant. It’s how I make a living.

Although I don’t shy away from having work bleed into my personal time, I require intrinsic motivation. I will experiment, test out ideas, and use new frameworks and libraries when starting yet another side-project, but I can’t find the motivation to allocate time to read a handful of articles. I’d rather spend that time with family and friends or pursue hobbies.

A while ago, I asked a mentee whether they studied or worked on side projects in their spare time, causing them to guilt-trip — they said they were slacking. Although developing my skills in my spare time created opportunities I might’ve missed otherwise, I encourage people to grow their skills at work. Our workplace should facilitate growth.

With that philosophy in mind, perhaps I can read newsletters at work. To avoid getting distracted by the hundreds of unread emails, I want to avoid opening my personal inbox. I suppose I can resubscribe to newsletters with my work address, but forwarding them lets me “own” my subscriptions and take them with me.

With my personal Gmail address, I can filter messages by sender, and forward these.

A screenshot of the create filter dialog in Gmail

After setting this up, I realized I can achieve the same by creating a new email address exclusively for newsletters. That’s probably safer — if the filter for forwarding becomes too forgiving, I might forward (and archive) personal emails.

Oh well, let’s find out if this gets me to read my subscriptions, first.