Zombie movies have been coming out fast and furious for the past decade or so, and we’ve learned a thing or two to help us prepare for the zombie apocalypse. But we can draw some other lessons from zombie movies, too.
Sure, Dawn of the Dead didn’t specifically include any productivity advice . . . but here are six lessons that I’ve learned from watching a lot of zombie movies.
Be Prepared for Anything
One of the best things about zombie movies is that absolutely anything can happen. Zombies can go from isolated loners to roving bands of brain eaters in a flash. Many a horror movie character has been slain by sprinting death machines when they assumed they’d be dealing with mindless shamblers. And who thought a zombie would figure out how to use an assault rifle?
The same is true with productivity. Whether you’re big into planning or you try to fly by the seat of your pants, you have to be ready for your priorities to change, whether you like it or not. This is why it’s so important to have a central place to keep all of your thoughts.
Whether you use a paper notebook, a system of digital notebooks, an app like Evernote, or just a plain text file on your desktop, having a single place (or an organized system of multiple places) to go when you need to make changes to your plans will be very helpful.
And don’t get frustrated when things change — stay calm, accept your new situation, and be mindful about how you deal with it. This will help you stay productive. And alive.
There’s Safety in Numbers . . .
There are a few rules in horror movies that aren’t often broken. And one of them is that the first person to get separated from the group dies, usually in a horrible way. Being out on your own against hordes of zombies, whether they’re voodoo slaves or scientific experiments gone wrong, gives you pretty bad odds.
You can try to go it alone when it comes to being productive, but your chances are significantly reduced. Delegating work to others who are better suited to completing a task can cut hours of wasted time off your work week. Taking part in communities that share your goals can help keep your motivation up and give you ideas on how to better do the things you need to get done.
Reading productivity articles on MakeUseOf, creating a Twitter list of productivity experts, subscribing to productivity newsletters, and reading some relevant boards on Reddit are all good ways to connect with others.
Just be careful about the amount of things that you get involved in. It can be dangerous to be spread too thin!
. . . But Groups Can Be Dangerous
Zombies are bad, but humans can be a lot worse when they’re put into the right circumstances. The loss of humanity and the monstrosity living beneath a civilized veneer are common themes in zombie literature. Small bands of humans trying to stay alive usually have pretty good chances, but when you get to 20 or 30 people and start to rebuild society, you’re asking for trouble. Especially when hierarchies start to get contested and loyalties are questioned.
The same is true of getting things done. While it’s good to have other people that can help you accomplish the things you need to do, relying on too many people can make it easy to forget who’s in charge of what, when they’re supposed to get back to you, and what the assigned task was in the first place.
Staying organized is key — consider using Trello for a Kanban-like project management system to stay highly organized and make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.
Tap the user-friendliness of instant collaborative tools at every opportunity. You can foster team productivity with the right tools and doses of motivation. That’ll help you keep disagreements, in-fighting, and infection at bay.
Choose the Right Weapon
If you don’t have a weapon, you’re zombie food. A pistol isn’t great, because it has limited ammo and can be difficult to use. An assault rifle will exhaust a clip in no time. A sword is good for lopping off zombie heads, but you need to be at very close range to use it.
While choosing between a flamethrower and a crossbow won’t get you very far in trying to be productive, choosing the right productivity or time management system can be the difference between (figurative) life and death. We’ve reviewed loads of different to-do apps, but there’s not an app out there for everyone.
Try a few, and if you don’t find one that you like, make up your own. Use a spreadsheet, or a text document, or a notepad. Just make sure that you use the method that’s right for you. Look into your personality type. Maybe, it likes something as simple and timeless as Zen To Done or Gina’s Trapani’s Simplified GTD.
Fortunately, and unlike choosing the wrong weapon, choosing the wrong productivity system doesn’t mean you’ll get eaten.
Protect Your Brains
Everyone knows that zombies eat brains. We’re not totally sure why, but by the time the zombie apocalypse hits, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not time for academic debate about zombie behavior — it’s time to stay alive. Protecting your brains is crucial when surrounded by the horde. If they get at you, it’s game over.
Your brain is even more important to you than it is to zombies (as you only have one and they have billions of options).
Using the Pomodoro method gives you periodic breaks that refresh your mind and help you stay focused longer.
Taking well-planned naps keeps productivity-killing fatigue from setting in.
Creating a good information diet helps you learn and stay fresh.
Learning to manage your mental energy by automating repetitive tasks and removing inconsequential decisions means you can use your brainpower where it matters most. Don’t forget that it takes energy to work in a cluttered environment, too.
Neglecting your brain can have the most dire of consequences — not getting as much done or, in the worst cases, turning into a zombie yourself.
Know When to Run
This could be the most important lesson of all. No matter how good your defenses, how many patrols you have posted, and how confident you are that you’re prepared, you can never be absolutely sure that you’re safe. You always need to have an escape strategy and know when to use it (namely, run like hell).
The same is true when you’re trying to be productive. Sometimes it just won’t happen, and that’s okay. Not every day is going to be a mega-productive one; when you’re struggling to move a project forward and it’s just not happening, remember that it’s okay to call it a loss and move on. We get obsessed by productivity, but it’s important to remember that there are other, more important things in life, too.
Like not getting eaten by a zombie.
Don’t Get Eaten
There are a surprising number of parallels between good advice on preparing for a zombie apocalypse and being productive in your day-to-day life. Keep these things in mind and you’ll be prepared for the worst — whether it’s a worldwide epidemic of flesh-eating killers or just a tough day at the office.
Feeling zombie fever now? Check out the best zombie shows on Netflix to enjoy.