so I have found a workflow I am actually really happy with for creating animations. I first started learning about it at college in some workshops, but I furthered my learning on digital tutors of how to refine and perfect that workflow.
It starts with working out what the animation is going to be. Such as a jump, skipping, running or so on. Then I find some reference material or video some if there is nothing that fits what I need.
next I do some simple drawings of the key frames and the idea of the pose needed in them on paper or in Photoshop. Then its time to open 3DS Max and get to blocking out the keyframes with the rig being used.
to do this properly I turn the auto tweening off and just make it stepped from frame to frame. this is done by changing the default in/out tangents on the bottom right of your screen near your key frame and auto key buttons to stepped (it literally looks like a step).
For the creating of the frames I do not try and put them in the right place on the timeline, I just make them on consecutive frames, so frame 0, 1, 2, 3 and so on depending on how many frames are needed.
After this its time to work out how long the sequence will be, then change the timeline to that long and start working out a rough idea of where each key frame needs to go. once they are placed I go into the curve editor, select everything and turn the tangents to auto.
This is where it starts to get really tricky, assuming I have done a decent job with the key frames and timing them out then it may look half decent. otherwise its time to watch it, do an animation preview, work out whats wrong and fix it again. this is just a matter of doing it over and over until I have it looking good enough to satisfy what I want.
If after this step I am still not satisfied I can go in and shorten the timeline to work on a specific point and finely polish it, doing this until I am happy with how the animation sequence looks and feels.