I've been on a little bit of a kick lately, sorting through ideas of mindfulness, making time, focusing on what's important. Themes of how to manage oneself and ones life to better do this picture taking thing.
I think I've come down to some sort of a nub here, a core idea. It's not about making time to shoot, it's not about specifically shooting in any specific frame of mind. It's about making time to think, to imagine, to process ideas. For me, most of photography seems to be happening up front. Taking a picture takes 100th of a second, imagining it takes... well it takes as long as it takes. The part afterwards, sifting, sorting, selecting, and finally building a presentation, that takes time too. It's not as open ended, it's lengthy but more or less predictable.
I spend very little time shooting these days. My goal, I think, is to spend less and less time shooting, but to use that time more and more purposefully, more and more effectively. Once I have an idea (I won't say a pre-visualization, because it's not that) shooting it may only take a few moments, mostly spent screwing on the right lens and moving a few objects around. My goal, I think, is to front-load the process as much as possible, so when it's go time, I just shoot however many frames are necessary, quickly.
This isn't to say I'm doing a one shot/one kill thing. Some projects I discard as much as anyone. But even the discards were shot with purpose, they were an attempt to realize a clear idea. They either failed, or are not as good and clear a realization as another shot, or maybe they simply don't fit the flow of the other pictures. Most recently I shot 8 pictures, 2-3 variations on each, for 20-30 frames, selected 7, and sent them off to print. Total shooting, editing, post-processing time was maybe 2 hours, tops. The idea was crystal clear and easily accomplished with what I had on hand. Bam.
That's where I want to be. Now, I don't particularly love the process. I'm not opposed to pressing the button, it doesn't cause me pain to shoot. But I'm not in love with it. It gives me no especial pleasure to use the instrument, as it does for many others. So, you may not want to reduce your shooting time, you may want to increase it.
Nonetheless, I think that front-loading the process with more thinking, more imagining, more seeing, will always improve the result.