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Come September, the pace of life seems to speed up drastically. Most people are back at their jobs after their vacations, and schools are back in session.

Work deadlines, visits to the dentist, kids' activities and parents' night at the new school all conspire to collide on the same day, but miles apart.

How can average folks even to hope to keep up with their work, take the kids where they need to go, fit in all the appointments and errands, and still have some time for fun?

"It's hard to balance all that," said psychologist Bert Epstein, assistant director of Student Health Services at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Epstein has conducted classes and workshops at various colleges over the past 15 years, offering advice on time management and how to juggle a hectic schedule. He appreciates how stressful modern life can be, but he believes that with a little forethought, most people can manage their time more effectively and comfortably.

Based on ideas from Espteinand several other busy people, here is a list of 10 tips for coping with everyday life at a breakneck pace:

1. Set goals.

"That's a step that people often skip," Epstein said. "They say, &‘Oh, of course, I know what my goals are,' but without actually sitting down and writing this out, it makes time management more challenging."

2. Set priorities.

"Consider that there probably will be some items on your list that you don't want to do, but have to do. In those cases, you might be likely to procrastinate," Epstein said.

"One thing that's useful is to ask, &‘Which of the things on my list is least interesting to me?' And then try and do that one first. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to put it off."

3. Plan ahead.

"Whether it's another place you have to be because the coach has called an extra soccer practice, or a large homework assignment, it seems like there's a lot that comes up that's unexpected for parents," Epstein said. "So planning ahead for everything that IS expected can be useful."

With two sons, ages 7 and 11, the psychologist is especially sensitive to the stress faced by today's harried parents.

"One of the things that's challenging is being bombarded with all the things that kids need to do, or want to do, and they don't drive, so you have to," he said. "Communication between parents is really important. One of the things that we've done at our house is to put up a whiteboard listing each day of the week."

4. Say "no" sometimes.

"Resist the urge to over-commit to others by agreeing to things you may regret later," said Sebastopol marketing consultant Padi Selwyn. "Always say, &‘I'll get back to you after I check my schedule,' so you can politely decline after thinking about it."

5. Enlist support from others.

"When you want to exercise, for example, and it's hard to get motivated and find time to do it, you can find an exercise partner to go with you. Then you have someone who keeps you honest," Epstein said.

6. Take advantage of technology, but don't let it take over.

"Everybody's carrying around their smart phone or their iPad, and emails are coming in. You have your whole work environment out there with you, which means more interruptions. But then again, you can also make more use of your time," Epstein said.

"There are so many calendar systems and phone apps now that people can use," he added. "There's one that people like that's called &‘Remember the Milk.' It's really a to-do list. You can put in lots of items, and send yourself reminders to do different things at different times."

7. Multi-tasking is OK, but don't get carried away.

"Let's say you have a project you need to work on, but kids' activities take so much time, shuttling between soccer practice and basketball practice and so forth," Epstein said.

"I see parents at soccer practice working on their laptops. If you can multitask in a way that works for you, it could free up more time later and decrease stress," he said. "On the other hand, if you're multitasking too many things at once, and you go into overload mode, that increases stress."

8. Give yourself a break.

"Allow quiet time for meditation and relaxation at some point every day for at least 30 minutes or more," said photographer Nik Catalina of Sonoma. "Except for urgent emergencies, never allow this private time to be interrupted or intruded on. Never."

9. Don't be afraid to bribe yourself.

"Particularly for folks who struggle with procrastination or motivation, building in some rewards is a great system to get the tasks done," Epstein said. "If you like watching a certain TV show that you've saved on your DVR, maybe you say, &‘I can only watch that show after I've done these items on my list.' Or, &‘I can have that ice cream sandwich I've got in the freezer.'"

10. Don't forget what's really important.

"Simplify life to what is truly important instead of a lot of busy-ness," said Sebastopol artist Suzanne Jacquot. "Make time for just being together, laughing, sharing and loving."

(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs. pressdemocrat.com.)

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