Do We Overuse The Phrase “ASAP”…

April 21, 2017By
Stop Watch

Do your ASAPs frustrated your team?

It’s probably not a recent development, but in the last few months I’ve seen the phrase “ASAP being used quite a bit.

I’ve seen it in my emails. I’ve heard it in phone conversations.

Nothing too crazy, but seemingly a little more than usual.

And the first thing I realized was my own use of it over the years.

But recently I started looking inward about how it makes me feel when I hear it…

As Soon As Possible

Obviously this phrase has been around awhile.

It’s been around so long that we had to shorten it to ASAP. And usually it’s in those all caps making it stand out even more…but more on that later.

It probably started out innocent enough. Maybe it was a parent asking a kid to do a chore.

Hey Johnny – can you cut the grass. It’s long. As soon as possible, please. Love you!

Or maybe it started in the business world with a boss asking for something from an employee.

Can you get me that report as soon as possible? I forgot to ask about it earlier. You’re a life saver!

And I’m sure it started out as legitimate. Probably no ill will.

But over time it seems that we overuse the term a bit. And I think it also brings about some negative emotions in the people we communicate ASAP to…

Your Time > Their Time

This isn’t for all contexts.

There are times when someone might have dropped the ball. You asked them to get something done. They forgot. Now you really do need it done as soon as possible.

But many times it’s our own fault. We forget something and only realize until it’s too late that we’re really under the gun. And we need others to help out and we let them know that it’s as soon as possible.

Just using ASAP without any other context can make the other person feel like you feel that your time is more important than their time.

As with most things, it’s all about communication. Sharing priorities. Making sure everyone is on the same page. And also doing the best we can to make sure everything isn’t rushed.

The old saying is that haste makes waste. Rushed work, especially over the long haul, usually leads to bad things in business and in life.

Crying Wolf

The other aspect of ASAP is using it when it’s really not essential.

It’s the story of the child that cried wolf. They made it seem like a wolf was attacking them. The child liked the attention, but after a couple times people stopped paying attention and the child was in real trouble…when the wolf really came.

People catch on if you start overusing urgency. They will probably help the first few times, but if it turns out that the task didn’t really need to be done soon or if it wasn’t really a top priority they’ll stop paying attention to your ASAPs.

It’s also possible to place urgency ahead of other more important priorities. It’s really easy to fall into this trap. I’ve done it. I’ve had bosses do it.

Employees have specific tasks. They get mixed signals when the boss gets caught in the urgency trap. They tell an employee to drop everything and get something new done ASAP.

The employee sits there thinking:

What about the urgent item you asked me to do a few days ago…

Specific Timelines & Priorities

So the big takeaway here is that when it comes to ASAPs it’s good to watch how you’re using them. After I started seeing more of the in recent months I started looking at how I was using them and other related terms.

What I’ve found that people like, including myself, are specific timelines and clear priorities.

ASAP is a pretty vague term. I guess it could mean drop everything and work on this new item with everything you have until it’s done.

That seems to rarely be the case.

Specific timelines are better.

I need this completed by end of business day Friday. Eastern time.

This is much clearer. It’s easier for the person to use. And if a conflict arises with another item on their list they can ask about priorities.

Final Thoughts

ASAP is fine on its own, but it is a little vague. We don’t all overuse it, but I know I’ve been guilty of it. And I’ve seen more of it over recent months.

It probably stems from the pressure-packed world we live in. And that’s fine.

We just have to watch what it communicates to others. We don’t want confusion or ill will.