I've taught basic 3D modeling classes in different programs at different universities across the Midwest. Students always want to dive in on the first day and start making things in 3D. In fact, in my classes we won't even touch the computer until we cover some broader concepts.
Everybody wants to be more productive and more efficient in their 3D modeling process. Here are The 3 Golden Rules of 3D Modeling:
Only build what you can see.
You'd think it would be obvious, but you'd be surprised how many noobs get caught up trying to make the smallest model detail right – when in reality, they are spending too much time focused on unnecessary details that won't even show in the final production. You should spend some serious time planning out your project before you even start 3D modeling. If you don't want to take the time to make a storyboard, at least get your ideas down on paper and sketch out a general plan to follow. This is even more important if you are working as part of a team. Make sure everyone on the team understands the goal from the start – and map out what you want everyone to be focused on during the production.
Know your final output.
Again, obvious question right? Are you working on an animation or print project? High poly or low poly. What is the scale? How much detail is required? These are the questions to ask BEFORE you start building models. I hate seeing artist spend hours working backwards or redoing the work because they didn't clearly define the project or poor planning. In a professional environment – time is of the essence – and when there are multiple artist's working on the project any downtime is compounded quickly – you won't get that back.
If it looks right, it probably is.
This is the important one. It's a visual world out there. These days people are surrounded by screens, billboards, magazines, etc. We are literally bombarded by visual information for all waking hours of the day. Thus we have developed a pretty good visual vocabulary. If something looks “right” they will accept it with a blink of an eye and won't even think twice. However, if something is out of place or looks “funny” is clearly “wrong” – and everyone will notice immediately. Create 3D models that look right – even if they aren't necessarily perfect. As long as it looks right – it will be accepted by the eye – and nobody will notice those little details that you couldn't figure out. Don't dwell on the details (see #1).
It doesn't matter what industry you're in or what software you use – if you learn proper 3D modeling techniques and project management skills, you'll always be in demand.