I got an email yesterday from a denominational person asking for some information ASAP. I have never been a fan of the phrase. But this request was pretty cringeworthy. Here is how I read it: So and so #1 is meeting with so and so #2 and so and so #2 wonders how such and such is going. So please drop what you are doing and get me this information as quickly as possible so I can pass it along to them.
Problem #1 with ASAP – No meaningful timeline is worked out.
ASAP means different things to different people. Based upon a that fact that a follow-up phone call within minutes of receiving the email, I’m guessing the timeline for the other party was sometime yesterday. Based upon the tasks and situations I was juggling at the time, to me, ASAP meant the next morning, at best. ASAP generally means disappointment for the requesting party and anxiety for the requested party because success hasn’t clearly been defined.
Problem #2 with ASAP – Conversation is one way.
Using ASAP reduces, if not eliminates, the possibility of a conversation to establish clear, reasonable expectations. When expectations aren’t met, frustration happens. The requesting party won’t get the information as soon as they want (because ASAP usually means immediately) and the requested party will stop what they are doing only to still fail the requesting party because the task wasn’t done sooner. A simple two-way conversation with some honest listening and negotiation is always better than a command.
Problem #3 with ASAP – Using ASAP is often colloquialism camouflaging rudeness.
ASAP communicates that the current priorities and needs of the requesting party are more important than the whatever it is the requested party is doing. ASAP says: I am more important than you. Drop what you are doing and do what I need you to do so that my needs can be met. To which the requested party generally responds something like: Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me.
Five Improvements to ASAP
- Plan. The earlier and the more thorough the better.
- Get input from the other party on what is possible and sustainable for them.
- Give reasonable, specific deadlines.
- When special exceptions come up–and they will–communicate clearly and compassionately with the person you are going to be asking something from. Let them know this is important and urgent requests will be a rarity, not the rule.
- Value the other party and treat them with respect.
An Example of Not Using ASAP
1:10 p.m. Hey Craig — I don’t know what you have going on today, but so and so #1 and so and so #2 are meeting right now. They have a pretty urgent request and need xyz information from you. Do you have anytime to get this to them in the next hour? I know this is short notice and I know you are a busy person, but they really need this information to make an important decision.
1:37 p.m. Hey so and so #3 – I am totally tied up for the next 90 minutes. I’m happy to help them around 3:00. To get them the information they need will take me about 30 minutes, so if all goes well they should have their information by 3:30.
1:41 p.m. Thank you Craig! As you know, I try not to ask such things on short notice.
3:37 p.m. Here is the information so and so #1 and so and so #2 need. Happy to help.
Eliminate ASAP from your vocabulary ASAP. Better words and phrases exist.