Sometimes, when I’m taking notes at a meeting with a client about their communications strategy and I have to use paper, I prefer grouping related ideas together on different parts of a blank page in a way that shows their relationship to each other. You may have done this sometimes, too, when you’re capturing notes on a whiteboard or on flipcharts during a brainstorming session. This way of capturing organization is sometimes called mind mapping.

Even if you’ve done this on paper, you may think that there’s not a way to do this electronically, but there is: mind mapping software.

Mind mapping software is especially useful at the early stage of a project, when I have lots of ideas that I want to capture, and they go into lots of different groups. Mind mapping software takes a little getting used to, because you are basically making lots of lists and then creating relationships among the lists, but the notes are more streamlined. Later, it’s much easier to glance at a mind map than three or four pages of typed notes.

What’s an example of a mind map?

Here’s a template that I use when I am working with a group to think about how they want their organization perceived, their brand. I ask them questions and capture their responses on my mindmap, along with my own notes:

Anytime you’re brainstorming or working with information that comes at you in a non-sequential order, mind mapping is a great way to collect information and get it into a useful structure for later use. People also use mindmaps for meeting notes or event planning. To learn more, you can take this fun online tutorial on mind maps offered by Mindmeister.

My recommendations for mind mapping software

At this point, I have so many mind maps I use the paid version of Mindmeister, but I also found Mindomo simple to use right from the start. If you want to see more complex mind mapping options, Lifehacker did a rundown of five mind mapping websites in 2013.

Like most new tools, mind mapping software may feel a little awkward when you first try it, but it can help you process information better and keep better track of your ideas. Have some fun with it!