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Time Management 101


By Alexander T. Nguyen

Here's a free time-management course for all of you reading this from the Alexander T. Nguyen School of Efficiency (the T. in my name stands for--what else--Time-master).

Since most of you will start college either this or next fall, I thought I'd mention that my first year in college would have been the proverbial bowl of cherries without the pits if I had known about the following techniques. They represent my collective experience of one year lived, nine courses taken and passed, 14 episodes of "The X-Files" watched, 21 all-nighters pulled, 25 pounds gained, 52 weeks, 99 bottles of beer in the fridge, 233 cups of espresso, 365 days, 412 pizzas ordered, 8,759 parties and two dates.

In college, many will tell you, time management is the name of the game. Everybody gets 24 hours a day, so how else can you explain the fact that some accomplish more than others in that same period?

So set a goal for yourself before you read this article. Don't make it too ambitious. Say to yourself that you will aim for 2 seconds a day. Two seconds a day, or 12 minutes a year. In twelve minutes, you can get out of Ec 10 lecture or make the guy at the other end of the radio of the drive-through Burger King understand your order. That is a lot of time saved.

Here are the techniques; feel free to clip and save:


Improvise your own system of abbreviations and shortcuts so lecture notes will be more complete. You see all those secretaries and all those court reporters who seem to type in word for word everything that is said? Don't even believe for one second that they actually write everything out. Use the same philosophy for lecture notes. Here's a sample from my Social Studies tutorial lecture on Alexis deTocqueville talking about the incongruence between freedom and equality:

"...DeToc ws a FR. in 19C. F + E. conflict. dem'y in US. AJackson dem'y Am. eq. and fr, E=mc2..."

And from my Statistics lecture on standard deviations and the normal curve:

" 2.1 std dev. with 67-95-99.7 ind. m.qq.ekdj kdjf. curve. Simpson's paradox and 4 mean. ATP; IB e pluribus unum. discursive formation. P(3,96)..."

See how easy it is? I mean, see hw ez t's? (Note: these techniques can also be applied to the spoken medium.)

Watching 60 Minutes in half an hour:

Unfortunately, this powerful time-saving technique is restricted to large lecture classes that videotape their lectures. If you take classes in the visual and environmental studies, hopes of using this technique are relatively slim, but pre-meds enrolled in Chem 5/7 or Biological Sciences 1/2 can save a lot of time in this easy 4 step process: a) skip lecture; b) check out the video from Cabot Library; c) press "play" and "ffwd" at the same time; d) take notes as described in the Note-Taking section. "But Alex," you are probably saying, "if I press "play" and "ffwd" at the same time, I won't be able to hear anything!" To which I say, "That's ok, because the guy at the drive-through Burger King can't, either."


Most believe that meals are a time to socialize and to get to know your fellow first-years better. That is a load of guano. Ever heard of a power breakfast or a working lunch? You don't have to wear a three-piece suit or be a CEO for DuPont to have these important meals. Learn to do your CS 51 problem sets over Fruit Loops and Expos papers over fries and sloppy joes. If you can do that, you will have the evening free for...


Even though I have only been on two dates in my first year at college I feel qualified to comment how to save time on dates, because in those two dates, I have actually gone out with four different coeds. How I did it? Two words: Double dates. In the time it takes for one date, I actually enjoyed the company and conversation of two women. If you feel confident, you can also try for a triple.


Time management professionals, who manage their time so well that they are actually on average 4 years younger now than when they started out in the business, call the time that is spent doing nothing, like waiting in line, sitting around after lunch, watching commercials on TV or attending Undergraduate Council meetings, down-time. Minimize your down-time by taking wolf-naps. In Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf, he observes wolves taking naps that are often as short as two minutes each. Train your body to do that, and all-nighters are a cinch because after you add up all the wolf naps, you already got all the sleep you need during the day.

My friends regularly walk up to me in sheer amazement with eyes as big as medium-sized tractor tires (ok, maybe their eyes are only big from the Vivarin they took to write that Historical Studies B-52 paper) and ask me how I manage to do all the things I do and still have time to relace my tennis shoes on Thursday evenings. Then I just smile that winning smile and tell them how I manage to save so much time. I tell them how I do it. And that was how I do it.

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