The Real ATM—Your Attention Time Machine
By Mitch Thrower
The real ATM is your Attention Time Machine. We are constantly making withdrawals and deposits from this ATM. That is why you need to be aware of those time bandits who are always present in the workplace. These time thieves love to steal our time with something distracting or worthless.
My ATM problem hit me like a frozen halibut in London's Heathrow airport. After purchasing a cheese sandwich and coffee, I headed into the lavatory while I was on my cell phone, trying to hang up on a talkative ad salesman from France. As I looked up and caught an image of myself in the wall mirror, with my cell phone in one hand, my sandwich and coffee in the other hand, chewing, talking, and holding the mute button down to cover up the sound of flushing toilets in the background, I realized that I was in the feverish grip of a self-induced whirlwind.
On another occasion, I can remember missing an important business call when getting ready in the morning; it was from a curt, short-tempered executive in London and he made it very clear that because I was not available, he was not interested in my proposal. The next day, I installed a speakerphone in my shower and, every few months, I have to replace it.
LESSON: The quick-tempo nature of today's work environment requires a never-ending attention juggling act. It is one played by executives worldwide who must learn to handle all those electronic balls in the air. The most powerful concept we have to grasp is that attention and time are more valuable than any diamond. They are the most valuable things on earth. And yet, many of us are going to bed at night with an attention-deficit account that's compounding interest daily. Some executives I know are so far behind on their time payments to the right constituencies, team members, board members, and shareholders that they don't know where to start, and so they find themselves hiding behind an electronic wall of impersonal e-mail, issuing electronic orders as if from an underground bunker. With the daily withdrawals and deposits of your attention, make sure your own ATM is not overdrawn.
Mitch Thrower is an author, financier, triathlete, entrepreneur and philanthropist living in La Jolla, California and New York City, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.