My semester begins tomorrow. Like many academics, I find that keeping organized is critical to to maintain my sanity over the course of the semester and also to find a sense of balance between my teaching, writing, and home life. What's the first step in getting organized?
Record your obligations. I've just finished writing my syllabi, so after I complete this post I plan to enter all due dates and test dates into my calendar. Take note of all deadlines listed on each course syllabus (one one big calendar). I'll also note what topics I'm covering each week as well as the readings and whatever prep I have to do. Put it all out on paper so that you can see what you need to do and determine how to find time for other things that are important to you.
Next is to create a master to-do list. Conduct a brain dump by jotting down every task that you can think of. Don't stop to edit or consider them, just list tasks. Don't worry about listing a task twice. The goal is to get it all out and free your mind. Once you have exhausted your list of tasks and have nothing left to write, read through your list. Sort into sub-lists or categories that make sense to you, such as personal, social, work, and school. You might consider breaking school tasks by class. Find a place for every task. Create a list for tasks that don't have a home, perhaps a list of items to consider later.
Finally, prioritize your lists. When are items due? How important is each item? Allot time to complete each item. Allot time for recurring tasks like class readings.
Now let's see if I can practice what I preach....