While certainly not new, one of my favorite tools when starting a new project is the mind map. From wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organise information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

I use it to brainstorm and organize my thoughts and tasks, and find that the non-linear structure works better for me than outlining. It encourages free association while maintaining order.

If you don’t want to go the pencil and paper route, a wide range of software is available, from free to pricey. XMind is a free application available on the Mac and PC. Mindmup, also free, is cloud based. I primarily use MindNode on the Mac and iPad, which costs $19.99. But there are dozens of others available via online search.

Brian Patterson is a graphic designer and trial consultant at Barnes & Roberts. He has created and overseen production of multimedia presentations for well over a hundred courtroom proceedings since 1998.