A recent post by Ted Floyd on the ABA blog was quite interesting. Titled "Ten Ways to be a Better Birder," the article makes for some thought-provoking reading.
Some of the things you have no control over. For instance, you can't go back and start birding at a younger age.
But I think that point number 5, on understanding status and distribution, is worthy of a future discussion. So also are points number 2-4, learn vocalizations, understand behavior, and put down your binoculars ("go naked").