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Forget Making a List

Lists often come from the organized, analytical left side of your brain. To solve an intractable problem, you want to engage the right, the creative side. Enter: the mind map. Get a big piece of paper and start in the center with a circle that contains the original problem. Write different solutions, and follow paths outward on the page, limb by limb, pushing beyond the obvious.

To plan a party, for example, I put "A great dinner party for friends" in the middle, and among the many branches, one went: "Make your own sundaes → mashed potatoes → have dessert first → sit on floor → indoor picnic."

Another branch went: "Progressive dinner → go to different restaurant for dessert(s) → show up at friends' houses uninvited → scavenger hunt to find food." A third: "Teach something → learn something → juggling → magic trick → expert invitee on food/wine." Your to-do list will just get you from point A to B.