There comes a time in one’s life to put away childish things. But there also comes a time to take them out again. After a 25-year hiatus, I took a risk and asked some of my smartest, funniest, most creative (and, naturally, busiest) friends if they would like to play the popular Dungeons & Dragons® (D&D®) role-playing game with me.

They were enthusiastic. Yet none of us were 14 anymore, with swathes of summer holiday ahead of us in which to munch pizza and roll dice. Few of us were even on the same continent. Fortunately, we now have digital collaboration tools that were the stuff of science fiction 25 years ago. Getting everyone to gather around that digital table, though, would be no small feat.

As a long-time practitioner of the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, I knew that my ability to pull off organising the schedules of six busy mid-career professionals spread across three different time zones would hinge on the effective use of my GTD system. Furthermore, being able to immerse myself in a rich, imaginative shared story – and then rapidly switch focus to solve complex business and technical problems – would require an excellent set of ‘bookmarks’ about the state of play of these two very different worlds.

In the end, though, why shouldn’t ‘Feedback on Erestor’s backstory regarding the Orcs’ live alongside ‘Feedback on A/R optimisation reports’ on my Waiting-For list? (They do!).

Over time I have discovered that keeping the ‘fun’ stuff in my head, instead of managing it with a trusted system, is a sure-fire way to make it less fun. In fact, I suspect that this may be why so many people side-line the things they enjoy in life when life gets busy – because they don’t trust themselves to give it appropriate attention in context with everything else they have chosen to do.

So, how about you? As a new year dawns, is there some fun, creative, so-called ‘childish’ thing that you have been afraid to pick up again as a busy adult? Or perhaps some existing ongoing pursuit that seems too trivial to manage alongside your professional commitments? If it’s in your head, it’s not truly fun.

However, if you’ve learned the fundamental GTD thought process, you know exactly what to do to make it fun again: envision your successful outcome (‘Amazing D&D Intro Campaign’), and record it in your project list; then define the very next action (‘Email players with Doodle link to schedule next session’) in the appropriate context. Pleasurable commitments are still commitments, made all the more enjoyable by streamlining administration to get to the good stuff.

So, if your life has been starting to feel less like a fantastic adventure, and more like a dungeon delve, I suggest that you make conscious and explicit those restorative, seemingly ‘unproductive’ activities that can breathe fire back into your world.

Next time, in Part II, I will explain the remarkable overlap between being a good D&D dungeon master and leading cross-functional business teams using GTD.

GTD & Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. D&D and Dungeons & Dragons are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

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