Sanity Notes #020- How to cut your email time by 80%🎉

Let’s get more efficient about your biggest time-suck

Matt Munson
4 min readSep 28, 2023

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Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.

Our work at Sanity Labs is aimed at helping leaders and their teams achieve more while suffering less.

Sometimes, that involves deep work, such as examining childhood patterns that get in the way of our success and happiness as our companies scale.

Other times, we like to look at the stupid-simple things our clients can change to make their roles easier.

Today is one such time!

On that note, let’s talk about email. ☺️🎉

Most CEOs I meet complain about having too few hours in the day. But few are disciplined about some of their biggest time sucks.

This post is about email, but you can apply it to Slack and other communication channels as well.

A few years into my time as a CEO, I realized email was sucking hours out of my day. It was also giving me anxiety and destroying my focus. I decided to try some radical experimentation.

The result dropped my time spent on email by over 80% with no observable downside.

Here is the resulting approach:

  1. Take email off your phone.
  2. Check email only 1–2x per day.
  3. Respond to an email the moment you read it.
  4. Keep all emails to 3 sentences.

Here is perhaps the biggest unlock…you will send fewer emails and therefore receive fewer emails.

Here’s the logic…

Take email off your phone.

You don’t need email on your phone. Stop telling yourself every email is time-sensitive. Most are not.

If you are anything like me, you are using email on your phone to give yourself something to check, a dopamine hit, a feeling that in the midst of the chaos that is running a startup, a feeling you are doing the stuff. Responding to emails is not the stuff.

Make email a computer-only thing. With a computer, you have a full keyboard as well as access to anything you may need to reference in your correspondence.

Write quickly. Write with focus. Write with the best tools available to you.

Use a computer.

Check email only 1–2x per day.

Stop checking email on your way to the bathroom. Stop opening your email while sitting in a meeting. Just stop.

Make email a focused and time-boxed activity.

Block the time on your calendar for email. Use only that time.

You will send better emails. You will manage the triggering emotions of emails during set times. You will train your brain this is the time you need to deal with the challenges and emotions of email. Your brain will thank you.

You will open up the rest of your day for more calm and flow.

Here is perhaps the biggest unlock…you will send fewer emails and therefore receive fewer emails.

I went so far as to experiment with only checking email 3x/week. You might like that too. Get radical!

Tell your board or your key partners to call you in an emergency.

Respond to an email the moment you read it.

My father taught me to touch any piece of correspondence once. That was one of the best life-lessons he ever gave me.

When you open an email, skim it, and then set it down to be picked up later, you add time to the message. You add context-switching. You probably re-read it a few more times.

Quit that.

Read it, respond to it. Be done with it.

Keep all emails to 3 sentences.

Keep all emails to 3 sentences or fewer. Trust me, you can do this.

You will write better. You will force yourself to decide what you really want to say.

You will also help your employees, investors, and customers save time reading your emails.

That’s it! I challenge you to try this next week. I would love to hear how the email experiment goes for you! Reply to this email and let me know.

I appreciate that you are here. If you were forwarded this email and it resonates, you can subscribe here.

There is nothing sacred here. Feel free to try my system out, then make edits as you like.

In the meantime, wishing you more space in the crazy. 😎

With love from LA,

Matt

Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.

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Matt Munson

CEO coach @ sanitylabs.co. Angel investor. Startup founder. Committed to helping leaders feel less alone in the journey.