Make a studio session signal flow cheat sheet in Excel, and fill in the blanks as you set up. Take this example: From far left to right — instrument, mic, tie line #, preamp, fx1, fx2, fx3, DAW input #, and so on. You get the idea. This makes it easy if you have a technical problem, or need to change your setup quickly mid-session.
#2 Preventative Patch Bay-ing Part 1
Make each patch from tie line to DAW input using the same colored cables. I like to signify the right sides of stereo mic configurations using red cables; same goes for insert sends — red cables are your insert returns. Regarding stereo channels, odd numbers are always lefts, even numbers are always rights. Sure, it may be borderline OCD, but it will save you a lot of hassle.
#3 Archive Organization
Keep it organized. Create dedicated folders, or even partition a drive as a holding tank for your files, organized in subfolders by session or even cue number. And have a back-up system. Whatever archive method you use — DVD, AIT, CDR — employ a system that can easily identify if a project has been archived. It could be as simple as copying the enclosing folder to a dedicated back-up hard drive, or maybe an Excel spreadsheet with dates and a job number. For Mac users, you can highlight folders in OSX. My system is this: “Red” means it needs a safety copy made; “green” means it’s already backed-up; “orange” means it’s been backed up already but revisions have been made to the original, thus a back-up update is necessary; “gray” means the project is completed, fully archived, and ready for deletion.
#4 Preventative Patch Bay-ing Part 2
When installing a patch bay, never install it with patch points facing upwards. Yes, it looks very cool, but dust and crud get in the bay very easily and over time the connections will suffer. In the unfortunate case that you’ve already made this mistake, make sure you always have an adequate supply of Deoxit spray around, as it really does make a difference in the quality of your connection.