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Business Hacks Exclusive: Five Killer (But Super-Easy) Work Hacks

If ever a book title perfectly captured the Business Hacks ethos, it's this one: "Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results." It's about applying the "hacker" mindset (that of skirting conventional methods to get things done more efficiently) to your work life.

I've been flipping through a copy, and I can safely say it does what any good book of this type should: combines recommendations and insights with real-world examples (rather than just saying, "Do this -- it works!").

At my request, authors Bill Jensen and Josh Klein were kind enough to whip up five easy but effective workplace hacks -- written exclusively for Business Hacks! Check 'em out:

1. Google it

One of the things that's most amazing to many is the amount of support and how-to's available online. Chances are absolutely in your favor that if you're struggling with something -- whether it's configuring your Blackberry, puzzling out a contract, or trying to get ideas on a client -- googling "how to X" (with X as your problem) will produce useful results. Practice this -- it's the most useful work skill you can have right now.

2. Train them

It turns out that humans are malleable creatures. On e-mail, for example, if you only ever answer the first three questions, you'll find that over time people will start sending you emails with three bulleted questions as opposed to eighteen-paragraph novelettes. Is it annoying at first? Yes. Is it worth all the time you'll save for them to change their bad behavior. Hell yes.

3. Never Say "Yes" to Meetings

Almost all meetings are now scheduled electronically. In Outlook and similar programs, there are three options: 1. Yes; 2. Yes, Tentative; 3. No. Never say "Yes" to any meeting. Always respond "Yes, Tentative" with absolutely no intention of going. Afterward, when you see the meeting leader in the hall, say, "Yeah, meant to go. Sorry. Triple-booked." Then ask for the 30-second meeting recap. You just saved yourself 59.5 minutes!

4. When Asked to Do Something: Be a Two-Year Old

You were brilliant when you were two, one of the best learners on the planet. Because you were constantly asking one question again and again. Then your parents and school system and authority figures beat that habit out of you. Go back to being two again. Ask "Why?" over and over again. Fact: You can ignore the first four answers. Journalists are taught this: You only get to the true answers by asking "Why?" at least five times. During that reply, the real stupidity behind whatever you were asked to do will be revealed. Then use the next strategy: smile and nod. Be sociably pleasant, but do nothing, commit to nothing.

5. Follow the "5 And 5" Rule

When communicating with anyone, never give then more than five seconds of your time when communicating electronically or five minutes of your time when communicating face-to-face. One way to do this is Know, Feel, Do.

Skim for or ask: "What's the one thing you want me to know? Why should I care about this or buy into it?" (Feel.) And, "What's the one thing you want me to do?" If they can't get to the point within five (seconds or minutes, depending on the type of interaction), they're just wasting your time. Hit Delete or get out of there -- fast.

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