I attempt to clear out my email inboxes at the end of every work day, although I usually manage it only a couple of times per week. I’ve been doing this for about five years now and one of the reasons was a belief that it would help me to organize my thoughts and be more responsive. However, I’ve never had any data to back that up, until now.
Ever since I started tracking my time and interruptions on my iPad, I’ve been able to observe interesting trends in the data. In addition to tracking where I spend my time with Eternity, I also track occurrences of events such as external and internal interruptions, ad-hoc phone calls, and the subject of this discovery; the “I forgot to do something” event. I mark an instance of “I forgot…” whenever someone has to ping me about a follow-up item from a meeting, something I promised to do during a conversation in a hallway, or as the result of a request within an email.
What I’ve found by looking back through my data is that on the days following a cleared inbox or zero email bounce (ZEB), I had very few “I forgot…” events due to missed email requests. It would appear that clearing my inbox now has substantive data to indicate that it reduces missed follow-ups.
Based upon this I’m planning to be more diligent about clearing my inbox at the end of a day to see if it the data continues to support the idea that it makes me more responsive.