My D&D game is currently in the middle of its first dungeon. Well, I say "middle" because they've only encountered about 1/3-1/2 of the fights/things in the dungeon...except they've already taken out the primary boss. See, in making the dungeon I accidentally made a path that more or less cut through the heart of the dungeon, hitting three of the hardest fights along the way, and then depositing the PCs in front of the boss door. The PCs, as they tend to do, then stumbled right into that path. This is only one of the lessons I learned in running this dungeon. Or is it relearned?
Short Cuts and Long Cuts
I don't regret having the short path in the dungeon. It is a learning experience, and one I'll hopefully remember. There is no problem with a shorter path existing. Maybe not this short, but multiple paths through a dungeon is good. It lets the PCs explore, and be rewarded for that exploration. Besides, they can always go back later if they want the XP and treasure that could be hidden.
Dungeons Should Have Stories
One of the big failings I have with this dungeon is I have no means of presenting the story of the dungeon to the players in game. I mean, I know what happened. I can always tell people what happened. But in game there isn't any way to give over what happened and that's a failure on my part.
In my defense, I was more worried about the mechanics of building my first dungeon in like fifteen years, but going forward I can do better.
Stop and Smell The Flowers
Along with the story, I need to remember to not fall into the mechanics of dungeons going forward. A dungeon can be alive if you let it. There are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures there to be had. They can even help tell a story, or guide the party through what is going on. Only, when you don't give the information normally it suddenly appearing looks a lot more significant then it may be.
It's Ok To Relax
As a GM you can be relaxed. Your players can be panicked or anxious, but you should not be. Things can take longer than expected to happen and that's alright. An anxious GM - or non-relaxed GM - is going to rush things. In rushing things you're going to make mistakes. Those mistakes are going to cause missed opportunities which will leave you filled with regret.
Slow down. Run the game. Be methodical. Your players can move faster if they want the game to go faster, but that doesn't mean you need to be anything but relaxed. Breathe. You'll GM better if you can just keep that in mind.