In Stephen O'Meara's 2007 book, Deep Sky Companions: Hidden Treasures, he makes (in keeping with the theme of the book) an analogy between pirates and visual deep sky observers.
He describes two tendencies, one he likens to the Barbary pirates in which observers "are primarily interesting in finding and accumulating as many deep-sky objects as possible. They enjoy the challenge of the hunt and are satisfied when their plan of attack succeeds. They are not interested in spending time 'on board' each target, examining it carefully and diligently. After the capture, they figuratively toss the treasure on deck, kick it aside, and sail right on to the next." He adds, "The more treasures they collect, the bigger their bounty, and the happier they become."
The other tendency, he likens to "the pirates who sailed the Caribbean and North American waters during the golden age of piracy, whose essence of attack was a mix of lust and leisure." For observers of this persuasion, "the hunt is part of a larger adventure. When we 'capture' a deep-sky object, we do spend time 'on board.' We feel the need to sift deeper, to plumb the depths of each 'hold,' knowing that if we do, if we remain patient, we will be rewarded by the sight of even more riches."
Stephen is very clear that both approaches are perfectly fine, after all, this hobby is about having fun. Stephen, of course, counts himself among the latter group. Indeed, when writing his first book in the Deep Sky Companion series, he relates that he often spent as many as three nights on a single object!
These two observing patterns are probably best thought as a continuum rather than an either/or demarkation.
For myself, I've spent the majority of my first twenty years in astronomy squarely on the extreme of the first group. It was all about the lists and getting those pesky "beginners" Messiers out of the way so I could work on the "real" astronomy held in the Herschel 400.
It has only been in the last two years that I've gotten myself to slow down and observe objects. Still, it's hard for me to do. No matter how I try to approach it, the more objects I see a night, the more accomplishment I feel.
Much of this is undoubtably due to my personality type. If you're familiar with the Meyers-Briggs, I'm an INTJ and the relevant metric here is the J. J (Judgmental) types love lists. We live by our todo lists. I bring this up to highlight that neither of O'Meara's two approaches are right or wrong, they are just different and where you fit on the continuum may simply reflect your personality and preferences.
Where do you reside? Have you drifted from one camp to another over time (and perhaps forcefully) as I have? Are you right in the middle?
I saw all the Messiers my first summer under the stars at age 12. It was about learning how to use my mount. Plus, I observed nearly every clear night.
About 2 decades later I decided to start recording my observations. By now, I had seen a lot of objects with NGC prefixes, and many of them were so uninteresting, I wanted to record my notes so I wouldn't go back to them and waste my time.
A decade later, when I got my first computerized telescope, my "log" was up to about 3000-3500 objects (viewed with 6" and smaller). My approach to observing was always leisurely, with not more than 10 to 20 new objects each session (I view all night when I observe, so that IS a leisurely pace).
Things looked so different in the 8" LX200 that i wanted to not only re-view all the objects I'd seen before (something not worth revisiting in a smaller aperture becomes a "favorite" in a larger one). I took the time to put together a list of about 15000 objects I though might be visible in an 8", and I decided that I would spend all my time on discovery, i.e. new objects I'd never seen before. Of course, along the way, I found a lot of new favorites.
Not surprisingly, my log grew to ~9300 objects by the time I got rid of that 8" eleven years later.
I quickly realized that the number of objects visible in my 12.5" would exceed the time left I had on Earth, so instead of trying to see everything visible in the aperture, I decided to spend more time on the "favorites" from my log and confine the new objects to maybe 10 or 20 per session (my pattern with the smaller scopes). Plus. discovery has its edge taken away when every new object is really tiny and really faint.
Now, a decade later, I'm only up to 11,000 objects in my log, and I really don't feel pressed to add appreciably to that. I estimate that, lifetime, I have 10,000 hours under the stars, so obviously, though I make and use lists, I have done a lot of "social" observing through the years or I'd have a lot more objects in my log. And I've varied from 75 new objects in a night to none. It just depends where I am and my mood.
I would say that, for a couple decades, I was "systematic" about observing. I did view each object long enough for notes about size, shape, brightness, and other features, so I wouldn't say I rushed. How many minutes does it take to see all you can see of an object on that night in that scope? Sometimes it only takes a minute. Other times it takes 15. But unless you're sketching, spending more than 15 minutes on an object means you've fallen asleep leaning on the eyepiece (guilty!).
Even at 15 minutes per object, though, that's 32 objects over 8 hours.
These days, moving leisurely and chatting with neighbors, I still seem to average 50 or so each night I go out.
What I don't do is what I read a lot of others do: observe for 2 hours then call it a night. When I do that, I'm looking at the Moon or planets or double stars from my patio, and I'm using a 4-5" scope. I haven't kept track of all the hours I've spent observing those objects through scopes, but it's extensive.
So I like the discovery of going where I've not been before and I like visiting old friends. Does the fact I keep track and use lists mean I'm only in the first group? Frankly, I think his dichotomy is artificial and there are more kinds of observers than he suggests. It varies from the person who wades only and just gets his feet wet to the ocean swimmer.
And trust me, you can't drink the ocean.