A lot of the workflow issues will resolve themselves with time and experience. The more you animate, and the more you learn to work with different rigs and software, the more productive you will naturally become. As far as actively working on increasing your productivity goes, it’s very helpful to talk to other animators about how they are approaching different issues in their shots, and if you are working in a studio that has a “dailies” session every day, there’s SO much knowledge to soak up by viewing their progress.
That’s one of the big plusses of Animation Mentor, and having the students be able to work with different mentors as they go through the program - not only do they get the benefit of seeing how different animators approach shots in the lectures, but they also will get lots of great info from their different mentors as well. And as they work their way through the program, they will amass many different combos of skills – a toolbox, if you will - to help them create their own workflow.
Workflow is such a personal thing. There can be many different ways to solve a problem, but each individual has their own sensibilities that will make one method or another a more comfortable way of working. Some things will feel more intuitive than others, depending on who you are. The only way you can figure that out for yourself is to try different things that you learn at school, figure yourself out, or best of all, watch what other animators do.
You can also do other things, like make sure your shot is very well-planned. If you want to avoid time-consuming changes down the road on a shot, it should be very solid in the blocking phase. The timing should be extremely clear, as well as the poses, and you have to have the arcs, especially of the hips, very well articulated and smooth. If you have those ingredients, then you have a solid foundation. You can’t add higher levels of detail to the shot and expect them to work if you don’t have a good foundation. Adding polish to your shot will be much more of a breeze, and you’ll get that shot finaled much faster, and with a lot less agony. When your foundation animation isn’t working, you will constantly be going back to change things in later stages, and that will affect any other details you’ve built up since finishing blocking. You’ll end up having to re-do those details as well to work with the other changes you made to the foundation. It’s a nasty cycle that will not only *drive* you crazy, but will slow you down like crazy.