How to Manage a Full Plate

Tiffany Ervin knows how to manage a full plate. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

A full plate of food is a blessing but when your life’s plate is too full, it can be a challenge. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Thanksgiving is a day when our plates are full of food, and that makes us happy. But when our plates are full in our lives, we often become overwhelmed and frustrated.

During a side conversation at a conference I spoke with Tiffany Ervin, whose plate appears to overflow and yet she appears in control. I asked her how she did it.

Her daily agenda helps her prioritize her days. It’s one tool in how she manages her full PLATE. Her PLATE includes:

  • Prioritize
  • Learn how to say, “Let me think about it.”
  • Accept that you can’t do it all.
  • Technology
  • Energize

When you are focused on paying the mortgage and balancing multiple roles, Tiffany said it can be easy to get overwhelmed. She uses a daily agenda (“not a To-Do List,” she says) to help her prioritize. I started doing this and while much of the list remains the same, it feels more strategic and less tactical.

Tiffany and I are alike in that we are both “yes” girls. We’re quick to say “yes,” when what we should say is “Let me think about it and get back to you.” By doing so, we can determine if the request fits our priorities or would stretch us too thin.

Learning to pause before accepting a request also helps us to realize that we really can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all. Many years ago I heard someone speak who suggested making a list of my priorities and referring to it when a request was made of me. If the request would further my goals, then I should consider doing it. If it didn’t, I needed to turn it down no matter how much I might enjoy it. This prevents me from spreading myself too thin and allows me to accept that I can’t do it all.

We both use technology to organize our lives, including smart phones. One thing, though, where Tiffany and I are old school is with our calendars. We both prefer a paper calendar. I find it easier to look at an entire week or month and see where I might be getting too booked. Again, that helps me to say “no” when I need to.

While her daily agenda may be packed, Tiffany recognizes the need to energize. “You need to find what energizes you,” Tiffany says.

For her it’s football and the Rotary.

How do you manage your plate?

Editor’s Note: I suspect Tiffany is watching football with a full plate of food today.

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Choose to Live a Life That Matters

Melanie Liddle Healey came to the United States from Brazil to attend university. It was a bold move for an 18-year-old, she told a group of students and alum. It also was a move that scared her.

In reflecting on her life, she asked herself, “How am I different today than I was 35 years ago?” She realized her values, talents and passions are pretty much the same. What shaped her, she said, are the choices she made along the way, and “therefore, the experiences I have had.”  She recently announced her retirement from Procter and Gamble.

The intentional choices that Melanie made included:

Choose to be you and believe in yourself. “Believe that you can do anything,” she shared.

The right choice is often the most difficult. “When we do the right thing, we can look everybody in the face without fear,” she said. “We gain the respect of our people and of our families and children, by making them feel proud of what we stand for and what we do. Ultimately, you will be respected for standing up for what you believe in.

Choose to find the courage to step out of your comfort zone. “When you have the courage to step out of your comfort zone, magic happens,” she said.

Choose to make a difference, to give back. She said leaders have a moral obligation and a responsibility to give back and to use their “influence and power proactively to help our communities prosper and be better, stronger.”

You cannot choose to have it all. She said that the choice to not have it all is liberating. “If I cannot have it all, what can I have? What do I really want and what is really important to me?” she asked. “Once you shed the shackles of the illusion that you can choose to have it all, you can focus on the essentials of life.”

She summed it up succinctly:

“Choose to live a life that matters.”

5 Tips on How to Be a Great Panelist

When you are asked to serve on a panel, it’s easy to assume that you will simply show-up and answer questions that have been shared with you in advance. If you do that, you are most likely not going to be a great panelist. Here are some tips to make sure you are one.

  1. When you receive the questions, jot down a few notes to help organize your thinking. Do not script answers. It’s also okay to have your notes with you if you are tackling a challenge subject.
  2. Aim for concise answers. The audience is more likely to remember your answers if you do this. It also gives the other panelists an opportunity to weigh in.
  3. Answer using both a high altitude view and a specific view as this provides context for the audience.
  4. Don’t use jargon, acronyms or industry-specific language that audience members might not understand. The audience is here to learn so speak so they can do just that.
  5. Speak to the audience, not the moderator, who is simply an extension of the audience. You want to make eye contact with the audience and project your voice toward them so they can hear what you are saying and learn.

7 Steps to Successfully Moderate a Panel

If you have ever served on a panel or been in the audience, you know how important the moderator is to the success of the panel. You probably didn’t even give the moderator much thought, especially if it went smoothly.

What if you are asked to moderate a panel?

Here are a few things a moderator must do well –

  1. Provide your panelists with a list of at least three questions with which you plan to open the session. The point is for them to pull thoughts together ahead of time, not to script answers. They may also suggest additional questions.
  2. Have more questions than you need. There is nothing worse than silence from a panel.
  3. Confirm the pronunciation of each person’s name.
  4. Share a few highlights of their credentials. The full details should be available in the program book.
  5. Spread the questions among the panelists, who should get equal time during the main session.
  6. Prepare “cutoff phrases” that allow you to interject should a panelist dominate the discussion. The same holds true when an audience member rambles on instead of asking a question.
  7. End on time. The panelists will thank you and so will the audience, which is already thinking ahead to the next session they will attend or the emails they need to respond to on break.

Strategies for Online Newsrooms

Almost everyone is bombarded with marketing messages.

Getting your message heard is a challenge with all of the background noise and the ability of the younger generation to filter.

To succeed, you have to find new platforms and not only listen to the conversation, but also participate.

One way to do this is by developing an online newsroom, which becomes the headquarters for all of your audiences, explained Ibrey Woodall, vice president of web communications services for Business Wire.

Her company conducted a survey of reporters and found that 77 percent want to find information on an online newsroom.

Reporters expect to find PR stories (88%); breaking news (87%) and PR contacts (80%). Fact sheets (64%) are regaining in popularity.

Also important on an online newsroom are images (63%), press kits (53%) and biographies (52%).

Woodall said reporters are looking for quotes in the stories, photos and interesting angles.

“It’s all about being able to download without having to contact you,” she said.

Reporters also want to see releases that go back several years. More than half (52%) said they want the releases to go back one to five years. Twenty-seven percent want sites to have a full archive of releases.

Woodall’s recommendation after five years to only post “milestone releases,” which are releases that share significant news about the organization. Releases about event and minor news should be removed.

Once you have your newsroom built, you need to promote it.

  • Include the URL for the newsroom on your business card.
  • Include a link to it in your email signature.
  • Link to it from the main navigation of your site.
  • Issue a media advisory about the site and encourage reporters to subscribe to it so they can receive an alert when new content is posted.

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

When asked about how she creates work-life balance, Melanie Liddle Healey, group president-North America, Procter & Gamble, bluntly told a group at a women and leadership conference, “I don’t believe in work-life balance. There is no balance.”

That doesn’t mean we should all become discouraged. She suggested three ways to have a happy life.

The first, she said, is to know when things in your life aren’t working. Once you recognize that, you can make changes.

Communicating expectations also is key. When she returned from maternity leave, she knew she wanted to be home to have dinner with her family. She spoke with her boss and explained that she would be 100 percent focused on her job between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. She also asked him to ensure that meetings ended by 6 p.m. He agreed.

Finally, she said to drop guilt. “It will eat you up,” she observed. Instead, she said you should delegate those things that don’t add much value and cherish those that mean the most.

It’s a good road map if only we would follow it.

How to Avoid Jargon Monoxide

I doubt there is a writer alive who hasn’t been told to avoid jargon, acronyms, company speak. We’re all guilty of it as some point, myself included.

To help you avoid it in the future, take the photo from this post, and place it on your computer. It’s from Polly LaBarre, founding member of Fast Company and editorial director of MIX.

When you avoid these words, you will begin to speak “human.”

If you want to speak human, you must avoid:

  • Buzzwords
  • Acronyms
  • Canned Biz Speak
  • Abstract technical terminology, such as incentivize or right size
  • Word barf
  • Verbal detritus (think outside the box)
(Polly LaBarre slide)

(Polly LaBarre slide)