Setup is important and it can make or break your shot. Depending on the action you are animating there will be an optimum rig setup of rotation orders, pivots, IK/FK switches and parent dependencies. Be smart and plan. In Anim Tech I have outlined a few get you out of jail techniques to help you Stay in Control.
The Rig. Be careful what you wish for! Features won’t make you a better faster animator. Time setting keys in REALTIME will make you a better animator. Other than facial or creatures with complex features like tentacles, your basic quad rig or any rig for that matter should be running in realtime 24fps.
This unfortunately can be a touchy subject between the animation and rigging departments. Animators ask for too much and riggers don’t get enough time. Ask your rigger nicely for a Layered Rig that has ability to turn off computationally expensive features. Things like IK toes, complex skinning, textures, facial controls and constrained not parented proxy mesh. Getting the rigger to cram your rig with complex features will eat up their time and slow your rig down to 3fps. Some of these features may be essential, but the base rig should always be able to run in realtime. No exceptions. In creatures we are more puppeteers than stop motion animators right?