Customizing Your Workplace in Blender
There are quite a few things you can do to make your Blender environment a custom fit. You can change the startup file, which loads exactly what you want every time you load Blender. You can rearrange the panels to give you enough room to work, to add more options, and change the layouts available. You can also customize the color scheme and keyboard and mouse shortcuts. While I don't know what exactly will make you the most successful, I can show you how to set all of these things up.
To change your startup file, all you need to do is get your blender file however you'd like, then click on File > Save Startup File or Ctrl + U
You can set the 3D view exactly how you'd like, add any materials or nodes you want, reorder any panels, and activate any add-ons you want to load every time you start a new file.
I didn't rearrange panels until a few months ago, but it makes finding the options you access frequently much easier. All you have to do is click and drag the right handle.
Another little tip is that you can collapse a panel by pressing A on your keyboard while your mouse cursor is in the panel you want to collapse.
Changing and Adding Layouts
Layouts are saved arrangements of editor window types. You can see the layouts that come by default by selecting the layout option in the Info pane.
There are a few things you need to know before you can add your own layout. You need to know how to change an editor type, how to adjust the size of an editor window, and how to split and merge windows together. To change the editor type (outliner, 3d view, node editor, or properties to name a few) you simply left click on the editor type drop-down.
To adjust the size of an editor window, move your mouse cursor to the boundary between the edges you want to adjust. Left click when your mouse cursor turns into a double-headed arrow, and drag to adjust.
To join two windows together, move your cursor to the boundary between the two windows you want to join. Right click and select Join Area. Then move your mouse over the area you want to get rid of. Left click to commit. To split a window into two, left click in the top right corner and drag down or to the side.
To swap windows, hold Control on your keyboard, then Left Click on the window handle in the top right or bottom left. While still holding down the left mouse button, drag your cursor over the window you want to swap.
Once you have the windows situated in a way you'd like, you can create a new layout by pressing the + next to the dropdown of layouts and name it as you'd like.
Changing Colors, Keyboard and Mouse Functions
The color options, or Themes are under File > User Preferences > Themes
The keyboard and mouse preferences are under the Input tab of the User Preferences window. Here you can change every mouse action and keyboard shortcut. To change a keyboard shortcut, left click on the shortcut and then press the shortcut you'd like. You can also expand the action to see all of the options. I don't recommend changing keyboard shortcuts, though.
Once you have everything exactly how you want, make sure to save your startup file.