Full Plate

“I can’t cry about having a lot on my plate when my goal was to eat.” – Unknown

It seems like everyone’s got a lot on their plates. We're perpetually overwhelmed in the modern era. Our phones are inseparable parts of our lives, and they keep the world of overwhelm right in the palms of our hands.

But it's not that simple. Overwhelm and high stress may be bad for us, but people paradoxically love claiming that they’ve got a lot on their plate. It's a badge of honor to be tired and overwhelmed and busy.

When you're busy, you're useful. And being too busy makes you very useful in the eyes of others. It doesn't matter what you're doing -- as long as you're harried and at wit's end, you're shaking and moving. Doesn't sound good to me, but that's just an opinion.


If you made a list of everything you’ve got going on in your life right now, chances are you would qualify as having a lot on your plate. But think about it -- a plate is just a vessel for things. That poor plate gets the bad wrap sometimes, but it's you whose often shoveling things onto it.

A plate could be full of vegetables or piled high with refined lard. Full is full.

So when I hear someone say their plate is full, it is an invitation for me to question what's being served.

Many times, people are just busy. Busyness for its own sake is just not worth it. It's stress without the reward, which tends to deflate people and sap them of their motivation.

This is especially common for ‘yes’ people - people who say yes to everything that is asked of them without regard for their time or their goals or even their desires.

These people end up with a lot going on with no benefit. It's only a matter of time before their energy runs out. Can you blame them?

In situations like this, we examine what doesn’t belong on that plate, what shouldn’t be on there and what must absolutely remain to nourish their dreams. Once we've determined and removed what doesn't belong, there's plenty of room for all the stuff that was missing and what was important.


Other times, I'll work with a client whose ‘plate’ is full of all the right stuff. Everything in their task list helps them move forward, achieve their goals and fill their time with productivity and energizing activities. This is typically the case for my high achieving clients and happens all the time.

Their plate may be full, but when it's got the food your really need on it, you really want to eat. High achievers with full plates can handle more because they're constantly getting things done; they're getting to work, clearing things off their plate, and making room for more. Those who can't or don't undertake lots of the work simply don't have the room for it, and that's okay!

Consistent clearing usually comes with a great deal of organization, planning and taking deliberate action to complete tasks. When these parameters are in place, full plates become not only a great resource for accomplishing things and getting things done, but also become a challenge toward success.

You can really use full plates to your advantage if you’re only willing to examine, adjust and gain clarity about what you are trying to achieve and how much you're taking on. But remember, getting things done in general is good, too. Take on what you can -- any more and you'll be overwhelmed (which is what you avoid when you fill your plate with the good stuff).

Whether your plate is full or empty really doesn't matter. Busyness of the sake of being busy is just about as useful as channel surfing. If you love to tell people that you're busy but feel totally stuck where you are, re-evaluate your plate and find out if you're putting your precious time into the right places.

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