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Too Many Things on Your Plate?

Tell-tale signs you have too many things on your plate

The most obvious tell-tale sign of having too many things on your plate is from a loved one. Usually, a spouse, parent, or child says something like: “are you working late, again?” or “will you really come to my recital?” or “I miss you”. It could be any number of heart-string-pulling statements. The point is we’re being reminded to reconsider our priorities.

None of this is about anything other than an individual trying to juggle the many balls in the air and do the right thing! With this backdrop, let’s consider the early tell-tale signs we can look out for ourselves. 

The tell-tale signs we’re just juggling too much

The tell-tale signs can be broken into two aspects: physiological and psychological.

  1. Physiological: something that affects the body’s normal functioning
  2. Psychological: something that impacts the mind and/or behaviour

The physiological signs can be numerous but tend to manifest most commonly as headaches, disrupted sleep, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations, weight changes, fatigue, and digestive disruptions.

Whereas the psychological signs tend to include things like an inability to disconnect from work, a loss of passion/joy in everyday things, feeling distracted or unable to concentrate, procrastination, declining productivity, and relationships under strain.

The signs that you have too many things on your plate may be obvious. Yet many of them are ignored until a life-changing event occurs. What do I mean by this statement? 

Turning the tide and reprioritizing time

Reprioritizing time is more than simply making a statement to change, it is about recognizing the warning signs and acting on them. For example, stress can result in the inability to focus and a tendency to get distracted. What creates the initial stress trigger? It often starts with thoughts of our never-ending list of things to do! Or it could be an inability to remain focused throughout the day because our mind drifts to other things.

Change starts when we recognize that excessive working is not a requirement or necessity to succeed in our careers, and in fact can result in productivity declines, mistakes, and errors in judgment. 

The answer lies in establishing healthy boundaries and learning to confidently say “no”. The intent is to get closer to the balance we need and want before life reminds us more harshly. Left unresolved, we increase our chances of heart attacks, depression, burnout, or other life-changing outcomes.

Creating boundaries

The principles for creating boundaries are quite simple when we think about them:

  1. Saying no without guilt
  2. Our needs are equal in importance to those of other people 
  3. Someone else’s monkey (problem) doesn’t have to become ours to carry
  4. Expectations are personal, we live up to our own not those of others
  5. Acceptance that we all make mistakes 

This is where the personal element comes into play. We need to develop the ability to be firm with our boundaries and comfort with doing so consistently, or we risk sending mixed messages about what is and isn’t okay for us. When we don’t apply our boundary limits, we inevitably cause ourselves physiological or psychological harm. Failing to live in a value-aligned way ultimately leaves us feeling uncomfortable, disappointed, or upset.  

When we are being firm, this is about clarity of decision-making rather than the tone in which we communicate. Assertiveness is the communication approach we seek. Sentences start with “I” because we need to own what we say and the way in which we say it. For example, if we’re asked to prepare a report about a target acquisition on our last day before our family vacation knowing it will take at least 5 days to prepare the report, we could say to our manager: “As soon as I get back from my family vacation, I will jump into the M&A project and catch up. We can then work together as a team to ensure the report and acquisition are successful!”

The example illustrates that we can say no, without using the word no. By reminding the other person that you have a prior commitment, you convey a negative answer without saying no. It’s perfectly acceptable to decline to do something being asked, temporarily or permanently, when it evokes a feeling of discomfort within us. 

Final Thoughts

Being clear about our boundaries helps us save our energy for things that really matter to us. It will ensure we avoid feeling drained, minimize wasted energy, and generally create a feeling of balance in our lives. Boundary setting helps us learn more about ourselves which has a by-product benefit of improving self-confidence. This freedom allows us to be the kind of person we want to be.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your advice for others on how you address the challenge of having too many things on your plate and not enough time.  

Give it a try!

Cartoon Credit: Author unknown

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