Finding Focus in a Busy CEO Inbox

The Gated Team
May 24, 2022

When Davis Bell started as CEO at Canopy, he knew he’d be busy supporting his team, serving his board, and at the heart of all things related to Canopy’s practice management software business.  He didn’t anticipate the flood of email that would come along with the role.  

CEOs get more than 3x the average amount of inbound email.  Davis felt the impact almost immediately: “Right away, I was receiving so much more email [as a CEO] than I had ever dealt with even as an executive, VP, or even COO.”

And those emails demand valuable time and attention.  Every morning, Davis set aside an hour to triage the messages waiting for him.  “On a typical day, I keep my first hour or two free to check the emails and Slack messages that come in overnight. After that, I can dive into my to-do list.”  

With emails arriving unpredictably throughout the day, it’s hard to avoid the habit of checking inbound messages when they arrive.

“I try not to always be on email because it doesn't lend itself to deep work, but I do check quite a bit during the day out of habit… probably because every time I come back, there’s 2-10 more that I usually just look at and archive.”

Davis compares the noise of unwanted emails to the ongoing noise that kids make - which a parent sometimes “tunes out” when it gets too loud. Of course, there’s always the worry you might miss something important if you tune out completely.  Between the ongoing distraction and the anxiety around missing something important, email can quickly become a drain on the mental health of a busy CEO.

Of course, besides setting aside dedicated time to sort his inbox, Davis has tried unsubscribing with third-party services and new tools, such as Superhuman.  But each approach has required him to spend more effort and time. Unsubscribing became another task to add to his to-do list.  Learning new tools created unwanted additional mental load.  It didn’t pencil out.  

“I’m taking meetings all day. I’m focused on my team and my board.   To put it simply: I have a lot going on. I don’t have time to learn another tool, to change how I work.”

What changed Davis’ relationship with email?  Gated’s solution makes it easy and automated to reduce distraction and take back power in his inbox. 

“It’s sort of like carnival barkers yelling at you as you walk around the boardwalk: buy tickets, try this game!  With Gated, that background noise is just gone. I can simply ride the rollercoaster and leave.”

Davis acknowledges that inbox management is a relatively small-scale problem in the world.  But for the day-to-day effectiveness of a CEO, the ability to see and respond quickly to critical emails from investors and board members matters quite a lot.  Gated’s approach has delivered a much-needed boost to Davis’ well-being and productivity. 

“Humans are adaptable. We get used to how we’ve always done things. We get used to a cluttered inbox.  I didn’t appreciate the mental toll it took to deal with email… until I got Gated. When I fire up my laptop now, I sigh a huge sigh of relief because I’m only seeing emails I want to see.” 

As a CEO, Davis keeps his eye on the big picture. Even the nonprofit he supports (Doctors without Borders)  is one he chose because of their global impact.  

In a world increasingly full of digital distraction, notable and successful CEOs will be people like Davis Bell – who recognize the importance of focus and use solutions designed to protect their valuable attention and mental health.