On My Plate

“I have so much on my plate!”

Most of us have thought and/or said this before. Many of us have done so many times. When we do, we are thinking of a plate as a vehicle for stuff to do, tasks to accomplish. What if we turn around that perspective and remember how we usually view a plate?

Plates are where food is served. We serve others with delicious treats. We serve ourselves a nutritious meal to provide energy for the day. We are served works of art at fine dining restaurants.

When we have “a lot on our plate,” it is usually because much has been given to us or we have greedily taken more than we can eat.

Privilege generally comes with responsibility. A large salary has a heavy weight attached to carry. Leadership is hard work. Mother’s Day has at least one child, with all the joy and mess or grief.

When we look at what we need to do, we can keep our eyes on the task list (in dismay) or we can refresh our attitudes with a reminder of what blessings come with those tasks.

  • Taking time for a hospital or homebound visit comes with a sweet conversation and the encouragement of relationship.
  • Serving lunch comes with mouths to feed.
  • Running errands comes with the provision of required finances, groceries, accessible necessities.

It is hard to decline opportunities. Whether we are seeking to make everyone happy or simply greedy for all the benefits, there is a cost. We can’t do everything. It’s simply not possible.

As we examine whether we need to be doing any given thing, it is helpful to remember that the blessing/task combo we’ve discussed will also be a blessing to others. Are we clinging to something that would help our neighbor?

  • Is there a student looking for odd jobs for a mission trip or tuition? You can delegate.
  • Do you know an introvert who would appreciate the quiet but still-relational task of volunteering in the nursery or serving at a tea? You can ask and share that joy.
  • Is there a retiree in your neighborhood that would love the noise of children in the yard every now and then? You can share your bounty.

It is also good to remember that we have all we need. Benefits are good — by definition — but, in Christ, we are not constantly starving for more and don’t need to act that way.

When the Dust Settles

After you finish a big project or complete a special activity, it is helpful to take a minute — before you forget all about it — and think about how things went. We tend to move on to the next thing, but then we lose out on what we learned. Just a few minutes and a few notes will make the next go-round that much better.

Michael Hyatt teaches this as the KISS method in his podcast:

Then the third question: “What will you keep, improve, start, or stop doing?” We think of that as the KISS method. …We use it to mean “What will you keep? What will you improve? What will you start? What will you stop doing?” …The process is vital because it ensures that you learn from what took place before, good or bad, so you don’t repeat your mistakes and so you continue to replicate your successes.

What worked so well you want to be sure to do it again? These are your wins. Celebrate and make sure they keep happening that way.

If I could only have one dedicated bag, it would be my beach bag. Every beach trip, I am thankful I only have to pop the one bag into the truck. Everything is in it: suit, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, paperback beach novel, towel, etc. I’m set.

What was adequate but could be better? Maybe you were trying to fill a need, but what you had didn’t quite make it. You may not have been able to do anything about it on the fly, but you can prepare to do better next time.

On our last camper road trip, we came back with several ideas. One was that the stick vacuum was great to have along, but it needed to be securely hung in the broom closet. Tripping over it or having it fall out when we opened the door was no fun.

What was missing? There was a need, a hole in the plans. Brainstorm ways you could possibly fix that when you tackle this (or something like it) again. Then you can pick one that looks the most promising and give it a shot.

During an intense season of outside work, we were in an odd cycle: office work day until mid-afternoon, tackle major projects, come home after dark and gather something to eat before we collapsed. This wasn’t healthy or much fun, so we tried something new: eating breakfast early, as normal, then a good dinner mid-afternoon before heading out, and a small snack after working. It was appropriate for that time.

What totally didn’t work? Everyone disliked it, and you don’t want to go down that road again. Make a note, before you forget and beat your head against the brick wall again.

We had a can of asparagus in the pantry from the beginning of the pandemic. After serving it for dinner, it was so unappetizing we decided we would rather go without vegetables than have it again. Fresh only from now on.

A few minutes of review and planning will save so much time and energy later.