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It’s that time of year again, the start of school: new classes, new teachers, new activities…and new stress. But it doesn’t haven’t to feel that way. Learning to manage your time (or your student’s) is an evolving process, but one that is definitely worth your while. (This post was originally featured on Tier One Tutors’ blog, and is republished with permission.)

Here are some quick tips to get you started down the stress-free path:

1. Pick your activities wisely

You don’t have to do it all. Really, really. Take the time now to prioritize all of the activities you’d like to do and rank them. Then take a close look at those towards the bottom of the list. Will there be a future opportunity to do them? If so, scrap it. Would you trade any of your higher ranked activities to do them? If not, skip it. Focus on the things you truly love; don’t divide up your energy across too many activities.

2. Slowly add on activities

While start dates for activities tend to bunch up, it’s important to not take everything on at once. If a new school year is starting, don’t add five new activities to the mix. Try managing one or two, then add one at a time as time goes on and you are sure you can manage the time commitment necessary.

3. Spread activities out

If it’s at all possible, keep as few activities overlapping as possible. If the track season is for three months in the spring, don’t do the school play in the same season; there will likely be another play in the fall. There is only but so much time.

4. Gauge your time commitments accurately

The spring musical may seem like a great idea—it’s towards the top of your list, you love musicals, all of your friends are participating…until you find out that all the leads are required to be at rehearsals for three hours every afternoon for two months and you already have committed to the soccer team and Spanish club. This doesn’t mean you can’t still participate, you’ll just need to think outside of the box. Maybe you can volunteer as a stage crew one day a week (a smaller commitment), or maybe only volunteer in the box office on performance nights (an even smaller commitment). Plus, getting a taste of the experience may help you decide if it should be a higher priority next time.

5. Set aside free time

This is probably the most important advice I can give to students and parents: schedule yourself free time. By this I mean truly free time—no commitments, no to-do lists, no expectations. It’s critical that you find time to balance all of the stress of the week with a time to read, watch a movie, or just go for a bike ride, completely guilt-free. Sadly, we over-schedule ourselves. So make sure to give yourself several ‘free-time’ periods in your schedule and treat them as importantly as you treat your other commitments.

Good luck with the start of school!