Doing some teaching at a local recording program at a tech school today. One thing I notice about the students is that they have a hard time using their time wisely - they debate things, stand around, spend forever setting up. There's not a sense of urgency. Now it's one thing to be a student trying to waste time during courses like physics, European history, or Tax Law II....but recording? Hmm...
Moral of the story is simply this - one of the things books never teach you is how to conduct a session. It's generally a fast paced experience, and rightfully so - most of the time bands are paying by the hour. And like anything, practice makes perfect. The faster you are at running around your studio solving problems, finding solutions, making things happen, the faster you will be to solve problems when they arise...because they invariably will. Most bands appreciate it when they see the engineer zipping around getting things ready. It really helps if the engineer has an intern or assistant for the session - that makes things run even smoother and faster.
I did a session recently where one of my interns was working with the drummer while the guitarist and I were laying down a scratch track. We walk into the other room and we start setting up drum stuff. With two guys it takes a fraction of the time. After the drums are recorded, I go into the CR to work with the bassist. Bassist does three or four takes and we move on to guitars. By this time, my intern had torn down the drum mics, the cables, packed everything away and hung up all the cables and headphones. We walk into the other room and start experimenting with guitar amps, free to move them about and use whatever mics and cables we need. We go back into the other room to do some backing vocals, and by the time the song is done, my intern comes in the room and says it's all clean. The band leaves, me and my intern leave, and the studio has already been cleaned. Now THAT is a smooth, professional workflow.
It's impressive to bands! They want their session to run smoothly, efficiently, and effortlessly. The more elements that you can eliminate that inhibit the creative process...the better.