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.

Doing What It Takes to Pay the Mortgage

Tiffany Ervin calls herself the “queen of self promotion.”

She has to be if she is going to pay the mortgage.

She has cobbled together a series of positions to do just that. She has worked as a morning radio show host, a keynote speaker, a sideline reporter, a TV host and even a commercial spokesperson. She also owns a clothing boutique.

Those positions came from her passions – speaking and giving back.

As a preacher’s kid, Tiffany listened to her dad in the pulpit and came to understand how to use words to move people. She also was active with the Miss America organization where she learned the value of community service and further enhanced her public speaking skills.

Tiffany Ervin speaks to NFPW members at the 2014 conference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Tiffany Ervin speaks to NFPW members at the 2014 conference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

She followed a fairly traditional path except that instead of working in broadcast journalism she went into public relations and marketing. She oversaw marketing for a hospital. During that time she worked for three CEOs in four years. Tiffany decided it was time for a change.

That’s when she began co-hosting a morning radio show. Next thing she knew, she was doing an infomercial for South Carolina. Other jobs presented themselves, and she became involved with Rotary, which also helped grow her public speaking. She now offers talks called “Breakfast with Tiffany.”

She told an NFPW audience at its recent conference in Greenville, S.C., that “to be a freelancer you have to be constantly evolving and reinventing yourself.”

Part of succeeding, Tiffany stressed, is to find your passion. For her it’s public speaking and giving back. “I’ve had so many great mentors,” she said. “I want to do that for someone else.”

Along the way, she has learned that sometimes she has to make difficult decisions. “You have got to be doing things that give you forward progress,” she said. For her that meant giving up a radio show that required a long commute that cut into other opportunities.

Once you know what you want to do, Tiffany encouraged audience members to network and use social media, both of which involve building relationships.

“Social media is an opportunity to network with people who may be looking for you, and you didn’t even know it,” she said.

Tiffany uses social media to share short clips from her speeches. “It’s great for when someone wants a sample of my work,” she said.

Facebook is good for demonstrating the breadth of what she offers. She finds Twitter helpful for meeting people in the long-term.

At the end of the day, when she has finished all of her jobs, she also knows she has paid the mortgage.