It's easy to speed dried-bean prep with the quick-soak method: Cover them with water, bring them to a boil, cover and remove from heat.
Let them stand one hour and then cook them. It's much easier and quicker than overnight soaking. Ideally, smaller beans should cook faster than larger beans.
But the age of dried beans also makes a difference in how long it takes them to cook. Beans that are especially old, like the ones people use in decorative jars, can cook for a long time without ever completely softening.
The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer