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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