According to a fascinatingly nerdy deep dive into the subject in the New Yorker, the current mania for the word "hack" all started way back in the 1950s at MIT, where members of the model railroad club were already warning those "hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing."

Since then the word has evolved to become a bit of a modern mania, with experts offering to "hack" everything from growth to happiness to your next DIY project. And while the term still has negative connotations when used as a noun (as in, "Oh no! Hackers broke into my email!"), the verb, used to mean finding a clever, unorthodox, and labor-saving solution to a problem, is quite positive.

So easy you'll feel like you're cheating.

But as software engineering manager Michael Lopp pointed out on his blog Rands in Repose recently, that doesn't mean you don't sometimes feel a bit bad when you discover a great hack. The problem isn't that you're doing anything wrong. It's that, if the hack is smart enough, you'll save so much time you'll feel like you must be doing something naughty.

Or as he puts it: "A good hack should feel like cheating because the value created by the hack feels completely disproportionate from the work done."

The lovely truth, though, is that these too-good-to-be-true hacks are entirely legitimate. The only thing stopping you from using them is knowing them. Thankfully, the post also offers several excellent examples from the world of leadership.

1. Sit with the clock facing you.

"The first thing I do when I sit down in a conference room is to find easy sight lines to the clock. Hopefully, it's on a wall, or maybe I need to turn it face me on the desk," explains Lopp. "The hack is: 'I should be able to know the precise time of day at any moment without a single human noticing.' By having an intimate understanding of the time, I can shape my exit."

That oftens means waiting for a brief pause in which to politely interrupt someone without disrespecting them. But you won't know to do this (or be able to pull it off without rudely fidgeting with your phone) unless you've thoughtfully positioned yourself first.

2. Come up with three questions before every meeting.

Before every meeting, Lopp takes a few minutes for this simple hack: "Whether I run the meeting or am a participant, I write three questions that I'd like to get answered at this meeting. For a day full of meetings, the three question exercise should only take a few minutes."

What's the point? The three questions act as goals for the meeting, or if you struggle to come up with them in under 30 seconds, as a red flag that the meeting might not be worth going to at all.

3. Fix small broken things.

"As you walk around your office, you constantly see little things that are broken, but you often ignore them because you are urgently working on the big things," writes Lopp. "Fix small broken things. Always. It takes seconds to clean that whiteboard, to plug in the clock in the conference room, and to stop, lean down, and pick up a piece of trash. Seconds."

Spending that tiny amount of time will make you feel accomplished and eliminate a nagging annoyance that will repeatedly drain your energy and concentration until it's fixed.

Check out the complete post for several more suggestions from Lopp, or check out other management hacks suggested by startup CEOs.

Help a fellow leader out - which hack of yours is so good it makes you feel a little guilty every time you use it?