Just thinking of what would I have done differently for the 1st year in the program.
1) Use a bibliography software from Day 1. Use it to record each of the readings that I have done. The abstract, theories, hypotheses/propositions, results & findings, AND comments and thoughts. I think this would be very useful when preparing for qualifiers. (Sadly I only started to use it towards the end of the 1st year.)
I heard of people using Endnote. Since I'm a poor grad student, I have looked for some free solutions. One is a web-based, basic bibliography system at www.gradjournal.com. Another is a freeware application JabRef. Take your pick.
2) Get involved in some research groups. Keep myself busy with a two or three group and/or individual projects in hand...
3) For every research idea that I have, I would bounce it with one or two profs early. Research ideas evolve, and time and expertise are of essence. Share with the profs the idea, get their opinions, read more, and fine tune the model, and the cycle continues.