It’s about this time of the year that I start to fall into a rut, a productivity rut. I start to fall behind on my classes, turning most of my time over to sites like Hulu and Netflix. I know I’m not the only one sitting in the library’s quiet study floor, wasting time online or in my dorm cleaning to trick myself into thinking I’m getting stuff done.

Truth is, I’ve lost focus, like many of my fellow students. So it’s time for a productivity bootcamp.

In the coming weeks we’ll go over a few steps to help get you back on track, but first let’s concentrate on getting organized and finding out where you stand.

If you haven’t already, or have been putting it off, it’s time to head to the bookstore and stock up on notebooks and binders. You can’t go through the semester writing notes on scraps of paper that get tossed on your desk. You’ll need to block off a bit of time to prepare the binders and start printing off (or finding on your inevitably messy desk) those syllabi. Then start on your piles of paper by making stacks for each class. Once you have all of your papers into four or five stacks, start organizing each one into binders. I’ve found that making clear sections (like Homework, Quizzes, etc) helps a lot more than just chronologically filing things away.

One of the best decisions I made this semester while trying to get out of my productivity rut was to buy a paper inbox (they can be found at Target, an office supply store, or even a home goods store like Ikea), so I could toss looseleaf papers in and file them at the end of the day. This way, all the handouts and papers I’d collect in my backpack during the day would end up in a safe place to be filed when I had a chance to. (However, an overflowing inbox can cause as much stress as a desk covered in slips of paper, so be diligent.)

It’s also getting around the mid semester point of the year. So, it’s good idea to figure out where you stand academically. This means breaking out Numbers, Excel or Grades 2 (for iPhone) to calculate your current grades for each of your classes. Figuring out where you are in each class will help you understand where you need to spend most of your time and attention in the coming weeks.

Now that you have things somewhat organized, we’ll go into a second part that will cover using task managers / planners, and how to use them effectively.

[Flickr image courtesy of user Sam Crockett. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.]