written by Amanda Hinnant

So often you hear about shortcuts gone awry - the substituted inferior ingredient, the hasty decision, the dead end. Why is it so uncommon to hear about the shortcuts that work out? Probably because the shortcut-taker doesn't want anybody to know her secrets. It's time to let you in on them. Here, the corners you can confidently cut, shaving time off tasks without skimping on quality results.

Duck out of a Party
Leaving a party is easy if, like Cinderella, you know you need to depart prematurely. "Just tell the hostess as soon as you can," says Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder and CEO of the French Culinary Institute, in New York City. But what if you're at a party that makes purgatory feel like Disneyland? There's no polite way to duck out of a dinner party. However, for less intimate affairs, "assume it's going to be boring, and lay your groundwork for escape," says Robert Verdi of the E! Channel's Fashion Police. Talk with the hostess right away, and whether or not you say a proper good-bye, "send flowers with a thank-you note the next day", says Julie Pryor, of Pryor Events, in Los Angeles.