Managing Your Inbox: Some Tips on Streamlining

15 min read

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I'm not really an organized person. Yeah, sure, I like to TRY to be one, but most of my attempts to clean house don't stick. The one exception, however, is in my online life. I keep everything to do with the computer tabbed and organized and that includes my dA life.  

I posted a poll asking visitors what their inbox looked like on a typical day. As of this writing, of the 52 responses, 35 have full inboxes – that is, somewhere between 200 and up to (or over) 1000 messages to sort through. So about 70% of the voters have quite a lot to page over.


I hear horror stories quite frequently from deviants who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things passing through their inbox. My personal inbox rarely reaches three digit numbers, and the few times it has, it's always been because something of mine has made the footer. While I can't promise that my personal methods will work for everyone, it never hurts to share a few tips :) I'll be concentrating primarily on the literature community as A) that's where I spend most of my time, and B) because literature requires a higher investment of time to appreciate, the problem of managing everything is exacerbated. That's not to say these tips can't be applied to other mediums, but reading is an investment of your time on a scale that visual art simply can't hope to match – I only have to look at an image for three seconds before deciding if I like it or not. I don't keep my eye on very many visually-oriented deviants or groups; I'm practically tripping over great visual art on this site. And make no mistake; managing your inbox IS about managing your time. You get it in order, and I CAN promise that you'll find more time to read, write, comment, and critique :D




From my (admittedly not-very-academic-or-thorough) research, deviations compose the bulk of the messages people receive, so we'll spend the most time here. Deviation stacks pile up in one of two ways; by watching individual deviants, or by watching groups.


Be Picky


I watch very few individuals. There aren't many writers whose work I almost always enjoy, for whatever reasons. But I know many deviants have a habit of watching any artist who once made something they faved. This isn't the best way to go about it. A dude on Twitter may make one or two clever tweets, but that doesn't mean I want his 10,000 un-clever tweets clogging up my dashboard.


In dA terms, pretend you have two writers with 100 deviations each. Writer A has written one or two pieces you really liked; Writer B, well, you've loved pretty much everything they've ever put on paper. 85% of their deviations are in your faves. You're getting a much higher return investment from Writer B than Writer A. In the long run, it's easier to meander over to Writer A's profile on occasion and see what's been going on lately than it is to let him or her continue adding stress to your inbox.


When it comes to watching individuals, pickiness is a virtue. It's the difference between buying an entire collection of books from an author you adore, and picking up only the good ones from an author who is hit-and-miss for your tastes.


Be Selective


I approach the Group system in a similar fashion. I don't think it's any secret that there are multiple groups with the exact same functions, be it exposure, critique, specialization, whatever. Not to mention the many inactive or even abandoned Groups out there. I like to take Groups on trial runs as it were – I usually go through about every six months and decide do I still want to be a part of this Group? Am I getting anything out of it? Is anyone else getting something out of my presence there? If the answer is usually "no," I drop it.


Personally, I find it much easier to watch Groups than individuals. Most active writers submit to Groups anyway, so their work is going to find its way to your inbox without you ever having to click the Watch button on their profile. Avoiding the same submissions multiple times is excellent streamlining. The author often does the work for you; the stuff they want critique on goes to critique-oriented groups. The stuff they think is good is going to exposure or specialization groups. Right away, you have an idea of what pieces you're most likely going to enjoy without having to read everything in their gallery.


My advice when it comes to Groups is to do a little research before you join. Is the Group you're about to join even active? You can usually guess by the date on the latest wallpost, or by when the last journal was submitted. If it was over a year ago, it's probably a safe bet that no one is really running the place anymore. I also find that Groups with some sort of submission policy – that is, every submission is NOT auto-accepted – are generally better about not letting their members get swamped with submissions.


Don't be Afraid to Delete


I know many deviants let stories pile up in their inbox until they have some spare time to read. While that's one strategy, I don't think it's particularly effective, especially if your Watchlist is quite long.


The thing about the Internet is… it's forever. It's always going to be there – it doesn't necessarily have to be in your inbox :D Submissions to Groups can always be found in the Group galleries. Same for individual submissions. Generally speaking, if the thumb or Artist Comments don't catch my attention, I hit the X.


There's also a second strategy you can play into here; if you don't already use Folders in your Favorites, you should really consider it! Make a "To Be Read" folder and stop letting it pile up in your inbox. It's MUCH easier to keep track of everything you want to read that way, and it won't get in the way of the constant stream of new stuff. And once you've read it, you can just remove it from that folder and not have to worry about it anymore.


Journals, Bulletins, and News


I think these things are much easier to manage than deviations are. The individuals I Watch are primarily friends, so I usually do make an effort to read their Journals. Whether I comment or not is a different story – if I don't have anything to say, there's no reason to force myself to say something. Delete. Perhaps I've been tagged in a meme; okay, I'll do that. Save it until my next update.


News and bulletins are even simpler; if it doesn't apply to me, delete it. Most official dA announcements don't have anything interesting to say, so I rarely keep them. I keep contest announcements only if I plan to participate. And check this – you can pick and choose what to watch from an artist or Group. There are lots of Groups that I've turned off the deviations, but I keep an eye out for the community happenings reports. Same for artists – maybe they have really great deviations, but they're always updating their Journal with trivial reports like this is FaceBook. Pick and choose what you want to keep an eye on.




Again, folders are your friend here. Here's what my Notes section looks like right now:


Folders by SilverInkblot


At the moment, I have 16 folders. That number will go up depending on how many Saturday Spotlight interview articles I'm juggling at the time. I particularly dislike letting my Notes get messy because they're easily lost and, often, more important than the other types of messages I receive. Happily, I find them fairly easy to manage with the use of Folders :)


Notes are also one of those things I really hate to let pile up. The little yellow "unread" tag goes away even if you click on the Note by accident, so if I don't read it right away, I may not remember to do so later. I do my best to read an answer Notes ASAP.




This one will depend on whether you feel the need (like me) to thank people for the fave. If not, you should have no problem deleting these messages.


If so though, then it's tough because there aren't many ways to streamline this one. If one person has faved multiple things, that makes it easy; I just drop by their profile and thank them for the whole bundle of faves rather than each one individually. I also don't usually thank people for faves if they commented on the actual deviation. Other than that though, there aren't any tips on cutting this one down.




I Admin for six groups (and even with that, my inbox still rarely hits 100 :XD:). For the most part, my roles in each of those groups are clearly defined. Many of the notices I get from them don't apply to me at all; I only keep and answer the ones that require my input. It seems like an obvious thing, but knowing where you stand and what you have to offer goes a long way. I'd rather be a person that contributes one thing really well than half-assing ten things at once.


It's another obvious thing, but don't overload yourself. dA puts a cap on the number of Groups you can Admin for a reason; once you hit your limit, you can't contribute to any of them. Decide where your help is most needed, and what you can bring to the table. Weigh rather you're better suited to a small, close-knit group, or a large, all-inclusive one. Cutting down means you'll have more time to read later :)




Basically, my advice to deviants comes down to "be selective." Be picky. Be choosy. Delete frequently and save in alternative ways like folders. I am all about the folders :D Just don't feel like you have to read everything - you don't. You can't.


These are all just personal tips, but they work for me – as I'm writing this now, my inbox sits at four messages. I think the high point today was 23. I'm quite finicky about keeping my inbox pristine :XD:

If you have any other tips, fill up my inbox by commenting below!

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Frappe7's avatar
Im not picky enough lol

Thank u for the tips!
introverted-ghost's avatar
I am off to make a To Be Read folder. Genius. La la la la 
SilverInkblot's avatar
It makes life so much easier. I have seven folders in my faves exclusively for literature :XD:
introverted-ghost's avatar
Oh, wow! I have a Literature and a To Be Read, now. Do you split yours into categories?
SilverInkblot's avatar
Sorta - I have a Prose, Poetry, Visual and Found Poetry, Suggested DLD's, Suggested DD's, Accepted DD's, Color Poems, Title Poems, and a To Be Featured Folder. So it's actually up to nine folders for literature now :XD:
introverted-ghost's avatar
Seems very tidy and organized. :nod:
SilverInkblot's avatar
Laeneris's avatar
The thing about the Internet is… it's forever. It's always going to be there...

I really should start believing this. I feel guilty for deleting things from my inbox, but sometimes I just have to! Helpful journal, thank you for writing it. :D It was due time to clean up my watchlist and this motivated me to finally go do something.
I have a tip of my own to add, it might be helpful as well. When I have read a note but don't want to/can't respond right away, I star it, so that it goes into my starred folder. When I have replied to it I simply remove the star. This way I never forget to reply. :dummy:
SilverInkblot's avatar
I never even think of the star feature on notes. Good idea :D
Laeneris's avatar
I have no other use for it either way!
Nichrysalis's avatar
Bit late, but:

Hi, you've been promoted on :twitter:.
You can find the tweet here: Chirp!

Keep creating!
Solarune's avatar
This is great, thank you! :D I think my problem is that while I understand all this, I find it really hard to stick to being disciplined and selective about inboxes – I just want to watch/be part of everything and then run away when I can't keep up. :giggle: But this is really good advice and I think it may help, so thanks!
SilverInkblot's avatar
You're welcome :) I've never had the disciplined problem because I've always been selective from the start. Joining everything never made any sense to me :XD:
HugQueen's avatar
This is actually just what I needed to hear, great advice, dear. [I've had the largest watch list ever and I've recently begun cleaning it up, I mean really cleaning it up. :giggle:]
SilverInkblot's avatar
Given the wealth of info in your Love dA Lit articles, I don't doubt it :lol:
HugQueen's avatar
:giggle: I try to keep the groups under control and clean them up every so often [and as long as I do Love dA Lit my watch list will always have...a lot of groups]. However, non-groups are worse, I was a bit too eager with that devwatch button before. :lol:
haphazardmelody's avatar
Thank you! This really is helpful. I always feel like I should never delete anything out of my inbox in case I miss that hidden gem from someone by just deleting instead of reading. But this is a much better perspective. I'll have to try to adapt it for myself. :+fav: :D
SilverInkblot's avatar
I find it's easier to go treasure hunting for those gems in the wild open plains of dA than it is to lure them into the cage of my inbox and hope they don't starve before I get around to releasing them. Or at least remove them to a better place in my faves for the time being :D
lion-essrampant's avatar
I've decided to cut down my watches and groups. I have like, 700! Yeah. I'll be doing it three letters at a time. Already done with A's, B's, and C's! Thanks again:D
SilverInkblot's avatar
Good grief :faint: I only have 50 on my Watchlist and I'm pretty sure there are more groups than anything.
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