A Simple Format To Distil What You Learn

The format for my weekly newsletter and how I came up with it

Michelle Mac


It’s surprising and fascinating how our minds can make unconscious connections we don’t realize.

I was going through some random notes in my Obsidian vault and came across this one: ICE Method For Active Note Taking ( Source)

Upon reading it I was immediately surprised that I recognized it. I use a version of ICE to write my newsletter each week. This link didn’t occur to me when I was revising my newsletter layout but it must have been in there deep in the darkest corner of my mind ready to be used.

It’s amazing to me how this happened!

Here’s the note from when I first brainstormed the newsletter format:

I can’t exactly remember how the structure came to mind but I can kind of piece it together looking back.

When I used to read Justin Welsh’s newsletter I enjoyed that there was a formula/structure to them. Justin breaks this down in this video. I liked the idea of having a defined structure for each edition so readers would know what to expect each week.

A structure would also make writing the newsletter easier as I could work within the constraints of the headings to guide what I wrote about.

I asked myself: what do I want to achieve with the newsletter? and I worked from there.

Well, I wanted to explore my curiosity, learn new things, and share what I learned with interested readers. I imagined the structure like a science experiment I did back in Chemistry class. You put forward a hypothesis, perform an experiment, and evaluate the results.

With all this swirling around in my head I settled on: Observation, Context, Learning, Outcome. I describe this in more detail below.

ICE format

Here’s the ICE format ( Source):

  • # OBSERVATION — When I notice something interesting, I use this tag to make a note of it. It is like using a keyword as a highlight.



Michelle Mac

The *heavily edited* ramblings of a technical writer & frontend dev. I write about creativity, design, and productivity. Start here: https://heymichellemac.com/