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Tim Noyce Advies I am a freelance coach/trainer helping people to implement David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology. Though this blog is in English I work almost entirely in Dutch and I am a fluent French speaker. My approach to coaching is very aligned with the GTD philosophy: hands-on and operational. Under the tab *what I do* you will find a brief description of the various kinds of services I offer

09 May 2009 ~ Comments Off

Seven (1d6+1) reasons to play D&D with Smart Children

There is a sad misconception that D&D is a refuge for the socially inept. I would say that is probably born of the fact that, as an intensely socially educative game, it enables people who would otherwise fall out of contact to find a framework. You notice them when they are playing D&D when they would normally have scuttled out of sight. That has to be a good thing, liberating and enabling.

I have written before about D&D for kids but since then a few things have occurred to me that have convinced me that everyone who has smart children should play D&D with them…

Some quick generalisations about smart kids. Full of ideas. Easily bored. Challenged by working with others. Tendency to grandstand and demand attention. Outliers from the herd who are challenged to fit in and have a hard time finding peers.

Take a few typical attributes of D&D and see how they can engage and develop your smart child.

  1. It is a team game. When you venture into the catacombs you have an elven wizard (Maria, from your class) at your shoulder, a shaggy barbarian fighter (Joe, who shares your passion for dinosaurs) watching the rear and the stout Dwarven cleric (Luke, Joe’s older brother who is very good at math) struggling along behind. Fellow players immediately have common ground and temporarily many shared goals. People who game together develop friendships.
  2. It is a game of the imagination. D&D stimulates and rewards imagination. It presents a living story, a realm of fantasy. Just for once having vivid ideas that do not fit into the day-to-day of school has a payoff. Just for once you can share a world of imagination with others.
  3. It is all about problem-solving.  The goblins are attacking and the mysterious rune-encrusted door will not open. Which of the three gems you have found will fit? How can I swing across the chasm without being shredded by the dire bats? Ideas zip across the table and advice and cunning plans are everywhere. I have never yet run a session where someone did not solve the problems I set them in a way I did not expect.
  4. It demands cooperation. Anyone that has ever played D&D knows that you need each other just as much as the players in any other team game, but with an added twist: each character is different. So each player has a unique contribution, a specific set of skills an capabilities that will not always be fully in play, but which will certainly at some point be utterly crucial. My son plays a rogue, a slight but light-fingered fellow, skilled at opening locks, defusing deadly traps and avoiding danger. The heavily armoured fighter stands between him and the fangs and claws, but waits (far) behind him while he disables the explosive runes on the the door of the treasure room.
  5. It structures communication. D&D has a lot of crucial moments, traps, combat and test of skill in which the whole table of players participates. That means that people have to take turns speaking, listen carefully to what others have said and thing on their feet. It is like being in a meeting with committee rules but without the stifling boredom and frustration. It is highly structured (though chaotic shouting does break out on occasion) and teaches communications skills, brevity and listening. Anyone that does not listen when the dungeon master is speaking may well miss a vital clue, not hear the troll creeping up from behind or the secret door creaking open.
  6. It rewards creativity. It is a game in which almost anything is possible. Though there are rules and limits, (jumping off a high place remains a bad idea… unless you can fly of course..), there is always another way to approach a problem, a wierd, out-of-the-box way of solving it. Creativity is rewarded. The problem-solving part demands creativity, but story-making and world-building do too. You need to flesh out an imaginary character. Imagine how she would talk to the local king, or to the butcher who’s wife is a witch. I recently challenged a highly numeric and analytical boy who plays in a game I run to describe what the spell he was casting actually looked like: arrows of fire, luminous serpents? He had to step out of his analytical comfort zone to do it… Similarly, the story-teller at the table often has to concentrate to work out if his character’s glittering shurikens actually hit the target.
  7. It is fun. Fun with people who think like you and revel in ideas and cleverness. It is a space in which football, physical coordination and the social pecking order do not count for much, so for the geeky kids it is a heady taste of freedom from conformity.
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23 April 2009 ~ Comments Off

Rosanna

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Sometimes what I need to say seems to obvious. One of the things I am still learning is to say it anyway.

I am a deeply fortunate person. I have a family I love,  a cheerful disposition and there are moments in my day which are eternal, where I am breathless with the glory of the world. I do not feel grateful because there is an obligation or that it is expected. I feel grateful because it is a natural state and so profoundly mixed with what I understand of happiness that I cannot seperate it out.

So I say to my sons “What goes around…” and they answer “comes around” and they know that I mean that the large and small generosity and acts of kindness that others show cannot be repaid, but only transmitted.

My oldest boy biked off to see his good friend home and  got lost on the way back. It was getting dark and everything seemed strange and threatening to him. He did not dare talk to the big, tough-looking teenagers he saw in the park. Fear and embarassment gripped him and held him back from finding help until tears came, until Rosanna came. I have never met Rosanna and I probably will never find her, but she put him back on the right road and guided him home.

Thankyou Rosanna, for sending him home. I was very scared too. May you be helped in all your journeys.

I have laid upon oldest boy a debt of honour. “Someday”, I said “you will find someone lost and afraid when you are a big, perhaps tough-looking, teenager. Then you will remember Rosanna and a scared ten-year old.” So much of what we say to children fades, but I hope that that will remain.

I do not know you and perhaps I never will. I am writing this out into the strange, busy echo-chamber of the Internet. Wherever you are, I hope that you will always be guided home. If some day a lanky great guy helps you out, it may be that my son remembers Rosanna.

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18 April 2009 ~ Comments Off

Webcomics show you people growing….

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I read a  lot of webcomics. I have always loved comics, having been brought up with the Sparky and the Beano. Unlike their squashed-tree cousins, webcomics have almost no threshold. You could turn away from reading this, draw something, scan it and have a webcomic up in ten minutes. This means there are hundreds of dud, repetitive, game-themed, puerile comics out there and there are wonderful ones and foolish ones etc etc.

Getting started is simple. Continuing, updating regularly with new episodes, is a tremendous challenge. It requires an investment of time, creative energy and technical skill that commands respect. If you follow a webcomic for any period of time you will see the creator’s ups and downs, family crises, bursts of inspiration and periods of despairing blankness. Of course, given that all the sustained webcomics have huge archives, you can follow someone’s entire artistic history from beginning to end in the course of a couple of hours of clicking your mouse.

There is no other medium I can think of where you can so easily and precisely trace the growth of someone’s skills and creativity.  It is an arc that is otherwise only visible to the expert who can gather an artists timeline in his mind’s eye or by visiting a skillfully-crafted exhibition. I get a kick out of seeing skills build. It is a validation of my cherished belief in growth through enduring effort.

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15 February 2009 ~ Comments Off

Gentleness is a super-power

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There is something that I want to say, somewhat out of the ordinary for this blog, please be patient while I find a way to say it.

I am a scarily cheerful person almost all of the time, particularly on diamond-bright blue-skied winter days like today. Things are actually pretty grim in the Netherlands, where I live, right now. The economy has taken a hit under the waterline and people are losing jobs, businesses and houses. Such times are of course sent to try us and they have one gift to give: perspective, they force you to focus on what is truly important.

I may lose my job.

But, I have a close and loving relationship with my wife and children. I am healthy (though a little overweight right now) and live in comfort and safety. I consider myself fortunate beyond all reckoning.  If was going to have a problem with something I would definately have chosen the economy and work. I am therefore filthy rich in any coin worth counting.

In these times it is tempting to “turtle”, pull the covers over your head and wait for it all to blow over, but that is not what we are for. If you do have perspective and strength this is the time to reach out to others. I spent various moments this week with people who are overstretched by their work, put at financial risk, or worse dunked in confusion and sadness by turmoil and tough decisions in their personal lives. There is little you can do but listen attentively and perhaps offer a little practical help and perspective. You can be gentle. So that is what the title is about. Even now, even when money markets lurch around like drunken giants there is no force, no dictum greater than love and the ability to care for your fellow-person.

Gentleness is your super-power. Use it for good.

Use it.

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13 February 2009 ~ 2 Comments

Training e-mail

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I recently ran a course for a group of colleagues on e-mail handling. Though this is one of the classic benefits of GTD,  getting to grips with e-mail, it is one I have slightly avoided teaching or coaching. For me the chief benefit of GTD is that it clarifies your thinking; as a result you do not get snowed under so easily. Many e-mail handling courses are merely “go-faster” tricks for Outlook and fancy macros. That covers up the real problem. To handle e-mail, voicemail, drive-by bosses and a day chock-full of meetings you do not need macros or short-cut keys. You need to be able to think clearly and productively about one thing. Finish that thinking, store the result and refocus rapidly on the next thing. [...]

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13 February 2009 ~ 5 Comments

Dungeons and Dragons with kids

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I have been running a Dungeon and Dragons 3.5 game for my 10-year old son and four of his friends for the last few months. Though they are all geek-kids with video-game experience and lively imaginations, it is, on occasion, very challenging.
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19 November 2008 ~ Comments Off

My life as a dog

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One of the things David Allen says about thinking and focus, is that “it’s not about whether the information is available, it’s about whether you are available to the information”.  Forget the nutty, mystical stuff where people think that imagining their dream life will cause it to appear. This is all about what you notice, what opportunities you take and what you filter out.

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19 November 2008 ~ Comments Off

Time of change

I have not posted in my blog for quite a while, which is strange because I enjoy writing.  I did some thinking and realized that though I still use GTD and coach others about it, I have little need to blog about it: any more than I would blog about cleaning my teeth. I still have insights and make mistakes of course and I shall bring those here, but I shall be moving this blog gently in a more personal direction. I feel the need for a journal…

Given that I live and breathe personal development there will be plenty of that in my journal. But I may also just talk about my kids and my job.

I may also post a few cartoons and illustrations: I have a creative side that needs to get out and play occasionally. I hope that there will be things for you to use and relish.

One of the things that has got my attention now is happiness. How can it be achieved and why are people not often focussed on achieving it!? I get a lot of insights into this from The Happiness Project.

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18 April 2008 ~ Comments Off

Personal effectiveness does not mean you suck…

Now if you are going to disagree with someone to make a point, you need to pick someone who’s opinion is worth considering. So I am going to pick on the thoughtful and helpful Merlin Mann.

Now I have been gettingt lots of useful information about how to get yourself moving on things, how to handle forgetfulness and distraction, from 43 folders, but an alarm bell went off when Merlin started saying that we all “suck at something“. I just hate the focus on weaknesses. Well of course he is right. I am pretty solid at GTD these days, I love and work hard at facilitation, coaching and clarifying communications but…. I am kind of terrible at short-term, common-sense logistics. The kind of stuff my way smarter wife effortlessly juggles when we need to shop, drop the car off at the garage, get someone a haircut, take a kid to a play-date and truck another one to a swimming lesson in one afternoon.

But it is certainly not just Merlin.

Lots of the personal effectiveness stuff I read is focussed on dealing with common human weaknesses like that. The only trouble is that spending all your time working on your weaknesses is rather depressing. I have been reading about focussing on strengths recently and the basic wisdom there is that you should spend most of your time investing in the things you do well and just do minimal “damage control” on the weaknesses that really hamper you.

For every hour of effort and attention put into handling something you are not good at you can get ten times the results by extending and deepening an existing strength. The time you focus on weaknesses is when they fundamentally prevent you from deploying a strength, given the context you are in, the work you are doing.

They way Getting Things Done fits into this for me is that it is an “enabler”. It allows me to get clear of the anxiety that I am not sufficiently in control, missing something important and leaves me room for creativity, for fun. It clears my head, so I do feel more able to use my skills. It is a catalyst. My personal strengths lie in first contact with new people, communication, finetuning, and connectedness. Feeling in control helps me have the confidence to lean into these strengths and apply them.

So I am still still dedicated to self-improvement and any and all methods that let me achieve that. The kicker is that you need to make sure that your self-improvement effort is focussed on your strengths, no your weaknesses

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05 April 2008 ~ Comments Off

The joy of…

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As I have mentioned before I regularly get revelations in the form of a blinding flash of the extremely bloody obvious. I just realized yesterday something that I really, truly get out of GTD and having a grip in all my stuff but never mentioned here. I have…

Fun.

I have a blast. Everyone has high and low energy days, but I have found that since I have the feeling of relaxed control my normal days are cheerful and inspired and on my high-energy days I have to be careful not to bubble over too much. I actually hop, skip and sprint to meetings, and it is not because I am runnng late. I actually have to temper my enthusiasm or I will irritate people and create resistance. Being so energized comes down to the cool feeling of knowing everything that has a hold on you AND having learnt to work within my own style, from my strengths.

What GTD does for me is take away the fear, the very basic fear, of missing something, being out of control, screwing up. It clears the decks for me to make more use of my talents, skip the worrying and do the contemplation, cogitation and wild, blue-sky, speculation that add value, and spice to life. That is where the strengths come in: they flower in that space you create. There is nothing quite so powerful or enjoyable as working within your strengths, doing things in your own unique style. They are just much more available to you when you have a clear picture of what you are (and are not) doing and are comfortable with that. When you clear your head, inspiration will certainly come, but I also got a lot of help from making a journal of accomplishments.

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