Actually some good advice, Echo.
Unfortunately, some don't have the luxury of choosing the project or people with whom they wish to work. After a recent project from hell (final details posted soon...), I have decided to limit my projects strictly to professional projects. I'm lucky I have that luxury.
Equipment: Yes, get to know your equipment. I have a lot of equipment and I like to isolate one piece a week and dig down deep into it. Read the manual (again) and really try it out on different things. If I'm focusing on a preamp, for example, I'll take my entire mic cabinet and run it through the pre while recording various instruments. This last bit is VERY important. There was a recent thread bashing the Neumann TL-103. I noticed that most of the people doing the bashing were only using it on voice, and most often their own. Try your mics on a bass, or a conga, or a tambourine...anything that makes a noise usually used in the context of a song. Find out what mic works with what pre on what instrument. That way you are 75% there when the band walks through the door.
I play synths, as well, and will focus on one instrument in the same way. I'll read the manual (again!) and go in and tweak with my ears wide open. "How is this sound built up?", "What happens if I adjust THIS parameter?" Aha!!
Someone posted recently that we should be called "sound sculpters" instead of "sound engineers". Well, get to know your hammer and chisel. And stay organized and focused in your chiseling!!!
This process is part of my ongoing learning/remembering ritual that leads to an improved workflow when I start to create or record. It's analogous to a musician practicing his/her rudiments in order to overcome any technical hangups that may interfere with his/her performance of a piece.
You can read more in my series of books:
"Zen and the Art of Mic Selection"
"Zen and the Art of Preamp Selection"
"Zen and the Art of Cable Selection"
"Zen and the Art of Plugin Tweaking"
"Zen and the Art of Choosing Your Clients"
"Zen and the Art of Getting Paid for your Work"
"Zen and the Art of Getting Over Long-Lost Vagina"
"Zen and the Art of Wondering Why Fletcher is so Rude"
"Zen and the Art of Run-on Sentences"
"Zen and the Art of Bashing a Piece of Equipment you've Never Tried"
"Zen and the Art of Bashing/Praising a Piece of Equipment you have/haven't and Loving/Hating it due to the Name and/or Number of Knobs On/Not On the Front Panel."
Published by BS Forlaget A/S