Develop the Habit of Making Fast Decisions

Decisiveness is a key aspect of effective time management. Many people waste away countless hours of their lives by spending too much time just thinking about decisions that have to be made instead of acting on them. Make no mistake-we are not referring to major, life-altering decisions. You should take as much time as necessary to make a decision that is going to have a significant impact on your life, such as where to go to college or whether you should change your major. These decisions have serious consequences and should not be rushed. That is not the case with the vast majority of decisions people have to make every day. Nearly all of people’s daily decisions are minor, and in the grand scheme of things, whatever decision is made will not really be meaningful a week later, let alone five years down the road.

Those are the decisions we are talking about, and if you are like the average person, you spend far too much time thinking about them. Consider this example. You are done with school for the day, you have checked your daily planner, and you see that you need to spend an hour studying calculus, an hour studying English Literature, and an hour studying Spanish. Many people will spend fifteen minutes or more trying to decide which subject to tackle first. If you are doing that, it is a huge weak spot in your time management plan. Just pick one subject and get started. If you are bored or cannot concentrate on your first choice, you can always switch. If you make a quick decision on a minor matter, and it turns out you made the wrong one, it can always be corrected. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back all the time wasted on indecisiveness.

To avoid this time trap, use the 60-second rule. Whenever you need to make a minor decision, spend no more than one minute thinking about it. Time yourself. If, at the end of 60 seconds, you still cannot make up your mind, then just flip a coin. It is just not important enough to waste any more time than 60 seconds deciding these minor details of life, and this method, if used faithfully, will really help you be more productive at reaching your main goals. On top of that, the less time you waste on these minor decisions, the more time you will have to spend thinking about the major decisions facing you in this very important phase of your life. Make it a habit to use the 60-second rule. You will be glad you did.

Use Flash Cards and Audio Files to Save Time

A great many high school and college courses require extensive memorization of phrases, terms, dated, equations, formulas, definitions, etc. For many students, this tedious and boring task becomes one of their weak points, and they put it off until very close to exam time because they find memorization so unpleasant. There is no getting around the fact that rote memorization is drudgery, but there is also no getting around the much more important fact that failing to memorize the required material for a class is a sure recipe for a low grade. Another factor to consider is that last minute cramming is not very effective when it comes to memorization, which takes time, along with repetition after repetition to achieve a high level of retention.

A great way to tackle memorization, which is also a powerful time saver, is to prepare a set of flashcards with all the data you need to memorize as soon as you have the list of terms you will need to know. Do this once and then carry the flashcards with you wherever you go. Any time you have a spare minute or two (or ten or twenty), take out your flashcards and work on memorizing the information on two or three of them. Keep focusing on those few cards until you know them like the back of your hand, and then move on to another set of two or three, and do the same thing. You will want to review all the terms you have memorized on a regular basis for retention purposes, but once you have drilled them into your brain, it is not that hard to stay on top of them. This little-by-little approach is the best way to handle memorization of a lot of material, and all you need are a pack of cheap 3 x 5 cards and a pen.

Additionally, because some people learn better using different methods, you can also create an audio file on your computer if you have a microphone, which most computers do. If not, they are very inexpensive. Just record the word, date, formula, or equation you need to know with a brief pause that is followed by the answer or definition. You can then turn this into an mp3 file and load it on your player. If you are not sure how to do this or if your computer does not have the software, that is no problem. You can choose from several different free applications on the Internet to download that can convert any audio file to mp3 format. Total Recorder is one of the most popular ones, but there are many options to choose from. Then you can use your mp3 player in conjunction with your flash cards when you have some down time and become a master of both memorization and time management.

Consider Using a Dvorak Keyboard

This time management tip is for any student who does a lot of typing, such as journalism students, or anyone who writes a lot of research papers. You can drastically improve your typing speed and greatly lower your error rate by learning how to use a Dvorak keyboard and switching your computer keyboard layout to the Dvorak layout. Many people are not aware of this, but the standard keyboard layout, commonly called QWERTY (for the first five letters in the upper row), is extremely inefficient. Although QWERTY has become the standard used on hundreds of millions of computers-and hundreds of millions of typewriters before that-it was not the original keyboard layout. Back when the mass produced typewriter was first invented, the keyboard layout was much different and much more efficient.

That layout, however, was a problem. It seems that when a typist began typing fast, the keys would jam. It was a big problem, and to get around it, the inventor rearranged the keyboard to separate the most commonly used letters. This had the desired effect of reducing jams because it slowed down typists. Unfortunately, the QWERTY layout became the standard, and typing is much more tedious and much less efficient than it should be. In the early 20th century, a man named Dvorak came up with a much more sensible keyboard layout, and it came to be named after him. It has never caught on with the public, but all world typing records in English have been set on Dvorak keyboards. People who do make the switch often report that their typing speed has doubled or tripled in just a few weeks, and their error rate has gone down dramatically.

Converting your laptop or desktop computer to Dvorak is not hard at all. You can find the instructions with an Internet search, and you can also find stickers to place over your existing keys with the new letters on them. In addition, there are some low cost training programs that you can use to retrain yourself to type on a Dvorak keyboard. Of course, if you have never taken a formal typing class, you will have a lot less to unlearn, but most experienced typists report that it takes at least a couple hours of practice a day for a couple of weeks to learn the new keyboard. Ideally, you would make this transition over summer vacation while school is out so that you would not be spending much time typing things on a deadline. Admittedly, this time management tip is not for everyone, but for those willing to think outside the box and spend a few hours a week learning to type on a Dvorak keyboard, the payoff in efficiency and productivity can be astounding.