There are things that I see, looking back, that helped me succeed as a student that I can still say are crucial now that I am on the instruction side.
The simple use of a pen (or pencil) and paper, helps you clarify your thoughts, and in turn, reach your goal more quickly.
The research and brainstorming stages will be the most time-consuming but most worth it of all your steps.
I love that the fact that knowing how to do great design, can also help me take great photos. And now it can do the same for you if you make the connection.
You will save yourself a ton of time and headaches if you are sure to get content before you start to design or layout anything.