When I watch movies, I’m in relaxation mode. But afterwards, my brain automatically goes into reflection mode. Call it a blessing or a curse – either way, I enjoy unpacking the different layers. Even though it’s Hollywood and make believe, we can walk away with lessons from what entertains us.
The productivity mantra that I teach is, “Time Management is all about Mind Management.” It’s your brain that decides how you’ll use every second of every minute of every day. It’s your brain that decides whether you’ll react in the moment or respond rationally. If time management is all about mind management, then the more we understand how our brains operate, the better skilled we’ll be at what we call time management.
A great thriller of a movie to pick up time management lessons from is World War Z. It stars Brad Pitt as a UN investigator named Gerry Lane. Mirielle (pronounced Meeray) Enos plays his wife, Karen. We don’t know her background, but whatever her experience, it’s shaped her to be tough physically and mentally and familiar with emergency protocols (oddly, none of which are hinted at in the trailers). Daniella Kertesz plays Segen, an Israeli soldier, and co-stars with Brad Pitt during the last 1/3 of the film. There are many faces you’ll recognize with very small roles, including actress Ruth Negga (pronounced Nay-geh).
World War Z is based on the novel by Max Brooks. Marc Forster directed this movie, which runs a tad under 2 hours. World War Z was released in June of 2013. If you have an interest in box office reports, here you go: the film had an estimated budget of $190 million and grossed $540 million worldwide.
To have an understanding about the plot of this zombie movie, you can watch the trailer in my World War Z portal here.
Let’s take a look at the time management tips and life lessons learned from World War Z, which will help give you the momentum you need to improve your productivity even more.
Keep Others Focused
Whenever there is an anomaly, whether a minor hiccup or a major crisis, some people go into focus mode and others go into panic. For those who go into panic, it’s important to get them back into focus so that you have a helper instead of someone who needs babysitting. In World War Z, Gerry and Karen have two young girls who – for good reason – start to worry as they experience their first round of zombie attacks. In a calm voice, give specific instructions to refocus. Here are some examples from the movie:
*Daughter: ”Daddy, what were those things?” Gerry: “Go get me some water, please.”
*Daughter: ”I’m scared.” Gerry: “We all are, baby. I need you to be ninja quiet. Keep your eyes on Mommy and Daddy.”
*Karen outwardly soothes the kids, even though inwardly she’s worried as all heck about Gerry.
Prepare to Modify
*It’s so important to have a Plan A as well as a Plan B for contingencies. But in life, there’s often not just one contingency, but many. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, so technically you could create Plans A through Z, but then you’d spend all of your time planning and none of your time implementing. Especially in today’s COVID-19 world where life situations and rules seem to change weekly – or even daily – it’s important to have a Plan A, B and C, but then be ready to pivot to something completely different at any time.
*”We’re gonna make the best of it.” The entire world in World War Z put their hope in a genius virologist who believed he could discover the cause – and, therefore, the cure – of the zombie apocalypse. I won’t give it all away, but something happens to the virologist, and suddenly others need to step up to save the world. Gerry rallies the troops by saying, “We’re gonna make the best of it.” Sometimes when you need to pivot, you must step into a role you hadn’t planned on or might not have the desire for. But if it’s for the betterment of your life, make that pivot.
Think, Then Respond
We have a choice when we’re faced with a new situation. We can over-analyze or we can jump into action. The key is to have a balance of both. In World War Z, Gerry discovers that Israel’s intelligence community uses the concept of The 10th Man. (I’m not sure if Moussad really does this or not, but since zombies don’t really exist – yet – I won’t worry about it. But it is a great concept to implement) The assigned 10th person assumes the other 9 are wrong. It is the job of the 10th person to think differently, to examine different perspectives than the others. By examining a situation 360 degrees instead of just making a gut reaction based on emotions and the consensus at the discussion table, you can find the cause and then the solution of what is challenging you. Observe, gather information, trouble-shoot to create the best steps forward, and then proceed based on the situational timeline.
Look for Patterns
The virologist in World War Z gave this piece of advice to Gerry: “See the crumbs for the clues they are.” When you’re faced with a challenge, dive in and look for patterns. Ask questions of yourself and others: What did you see? What happened? How do you think this came about? How do we change this?
Look for patterns of commonalities. In World War Z Gerry observed: a human turned after they absorbed some Zombie juice; humans took 12 seconds to turn once infected; zombies need a healthy host to replicate so they avoid the sick or terminally ill. What patterns can you find when you examine your challenges?
Gaining momentum and succeeding in life have a little to do with minding our watches, timers, calendars or whatever time-keeping tool we use. But time management is about much more than that. Being more productive is about being a better problem-solver, which takes practice and intentional thought.
World War Z is a great reminder of this. Keep others focused, be prepared to modify, think then respond, and look for patterns.
For more time management tips from movies, check out my complimentary series: Music, Movies, Momentum: Time Management Lessons Uncovered in Pop Culture.