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A Checklist to Reduce Errors (Specifically for My Newsletter)

Last week I hit a new milestone for The Mental Pivot Newsletter, my 20th weekly issue. Unfortunately, at the moment of delivery, I accidentally clicked the publish button twice which resulted in my audience receiving two copies of my newsletter in their inboxes.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed by the mistake. The last thing I want to do is spam my readers. Fortunately nobody emailed me to complain and, as far as I can tell, nobody unsubscribed as a result of my incompetence. It goes to show that people are generally pretty forgiving.

I understand that mistakes get made when publishing online, especially when a noob like myself is behind the keyboard.

Since the beginning, I’ve mentally compiled a mental list of essential tasks when publishing the newsletter. As of today, there are so many items in this mental checklist that I realized I needed to take my own advice and write it all down (see: Superhabits: Write Things Down, Especially Your Ideas). After all, memory is unreliable and writing is one proven antidote to forgetting.

As a tool, checklists don’t garner much admiration. They’re a bit tedious to deal with. Moreover, they seem pretty basic. It’s just a list of stuff. A list of stuff with a checkbox if you’re feeling really extravagant.

Noted surgeon Atul Gawande wrote a whole book on the topic called The Checklist Manifesto (it’s a good, short read). In it, he writes:

Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields...the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably...

This means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy—though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing even more advanced skills and techniques.

It is a checklist.

Gawande was writing about medicine and life-and-death situations. I’m writing about a hobby newsletter. Regardless, the end goals are the same: the reduction of avoidable errors.

In the interest of “learning in public,” here’s my first pass at a checklist for the Mental Pivot Newsletter:

The Mental Pivot Newsletter Publishing Checklist:

☐ Confirm current issue number.
☐ Make sure comment link in footer is updated with issue number.
☐ Run “revision mode” in Ulysses.
☐ Final Ulysses read-through.
☐ Test all hyperlinks (via Ulysses). Editing in Ulysses is preferred.
☐ Export newsletter contents via HTML export.
☐ Close Ulysses app (to avoid mixing up editor environments).
☐ Fix horizontal rules via Substack editor.
☐ Add title and blurb via Substack editor.
☐ Remove title and blurb from article body in Substack editor.
☐ Upload photo for article via Substack editor settings.
☐ Send test email via Substack editor settings.
☐ Check test email formatting and content.
☐ Make sure links are bolded in Substack (if adding or editing).
☐ Final read-through (Substack editor or test email).
☐ Publish newsletter [Single click on publish button].
Page response can be slow—don’t double-click!!!

I can’t guarantee perfection, but here’s hoping for fewer errors in the future. I’m sure to uncover some “unknown” errors as well, those, unfortunately, will come with further experience.

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