“There is too much on my plate” — while this phrase is most often heard at Thanksgiving or summer barbeques, it is a reality lived daily by accounting firm leaders across the country. Many leaders view their firm growth as inhibited due to their full plates. Other firm leaders look at the full plate and see it eating away at their opportunities to innovate or serve clients in new ways. Does it have to be this way?
Ironically enough, too much on the plate is a common reason for not being able to get things off the plate — how is time found to clear some off? The good news is that it does not have to be this way — and there are solutions that can be successfully implemented amid the busyness. Those answers come in terms of a plan, and some structure.
Before we dive into that, what is even meant by a “full plate?” When is the plate too full? How do I know if my plate is full versus my just being tired? This question does not have a black-and-white answer. There is no numeric approach to help keep everyone’s plate from being too full. The reality is that this is a unique combination of three factors. First, capacity against desired working hours. Notice this is “desired working hours,” not simply 40 hours. The desire to work more or less than 40 will impact the reflection of too much on the plate. Secondly, we factor in the mental exertion of the work. The harder one must think, process and decide before acting, the greater the weight when it comes to measuring how much work is on the plate. Frequency of the task is related here, but is tangential as the mental exertion is more critical than consideration of frequency. The third factor of the full plate is the return on investment — what are you getting back? Are you motivated by this? While there is a financial component here, there are likely other returns such as intrinsic satisfaction, client impact, or passion alignment. While we could take great lengths to break these details down, the purpose here is not to do that, but to rather acknowledge that having a full plate is not always a simple measurement, and as you as an individual are trying to determine if too much is on your plate, you must consider and weigh these three factors to arrive at the conclusion.
There is no badge that comes with an overflowing plate, and there is no shame in admitting you have reached that place. Go out and tackle this! Assuming you truly do have an overflowing plate, there is an approach to help create space in the right places. The four steps below do not magically make this easy or simple but having a plan of attack which contains structure and communication elements will help drive towards the successful results you, and the firm, desire.