A lot on one’s plate and a full plate are idioms that originated in the first half of the twentieth century. A lot on one’s plate is an idiom that means that one has too much to do, that one’s workload is too heavy, that one’s schedule is too hectic, or that one is burdened with too much responsibility. To have a lot on one’s plate is a stressful position to be in and is outside the norm. The idiom may also be expressed as enough on one’s plate, which carries the implication that the person will not take on any more work or responsibility. The image is one of a dinner plate that is laden with food. It is believed that the expression came into use in the 1920s, though its origin is uncertain. Of course, the phrase a lot on one’s plate may be used in a literal sense, also.
The idiom a full plate means that someone has enough to do and will not take on any additional workload, burden or responsibility. If someone has a full plate he has reached the limit of what he can do. A full plate may also be used in a literal sense to mean that someone has a dinner plate full of food.
“I have a lot on my plate right now, but how about I help you with this portion (fill in the blank) of the project?” (Forbes Magazine)
Everything happens for a reason and I feel like even though it’s been a lot on my plate, those things have inspired me to do other things. (Atlantic City WEekly)
“That balance comes from just knowing that, yes, I have a full plate, but I also have the ability to lose myself amongst a million other souls,” she said. (The Pueblo Chieftan)
“I told her, ‘I have a full plate, I can’t do it,’” he said. (The Chicago Tribune)