It is never ASAP

The intention of this post is to share one learning experience with people overwhelmed with number of requests and unable to figure out why they are struggling to move forward despite their unparalleled skills and hard works.

I work in a very fast-paced service environment and I see this acronym in emails than any other jargon or acronym I know. And when I read hundreds such emails, each of them having unique asks and challenges to address them, I wonder if people instead meant to say “when time permits”, “perhaps, later”, “not today”, “whenever I have time “. Then I see numerous follow-ups requesting an ETA of the same email. By looking carefully I realised we see such uses by those who are already super performer but perhaps too polite or unwilling to risk disappointment to people. For serious workers who are committed to deliver consistently it is also inevitable to falter the (unrealistic) expectation set by ASAP.

Irrespective of who and what the request is, I never recommend using ASAP. Because it not only adds undue mental pressure, it also increases frustration when the recipient incorrectly hopes to expect the response as if it is the top priority action at your end. This is more evident in teams working in fast-paced environment where things are volatile and planning even for next hour is difficult.

The number of broken promises continues to increase from the moment we start marking activities as ASAP, resulting in disappointment for both sides. The biggest trouble is should such ASAP become a long wait few times you start losing credibility and receive more chasers instead. Eventually all the efforts to make everyone happy starts turning into frustration for everyone. Sometime even under performance rating etc.

I am sharing this in open forum because I have learnt it hard way and I was one of those who have misused this world in earlier days. After spending few years in support related work I realized that I was setting up wrong expectations every time I said “ASAP” and instead of helping the customers I was actually further frustrating them.

Therefore, I changed my approach and started to replace “ASAP” with some relative time terms I could track through calendar invites and task list. With this one change, I could clearly see the benefit that I even if I was not making people instantly happy, they were content with my services and trusted me more each time I met the timeline. It has helped me to gain clients, peers and my manager’s trusts ever since then. The other benefit I could see is I was able to complete the work with more peace and faster than earlier – at least I Would like to feel that way. 🙂

I felt people are consciously aware that there could be always be something holding you up and they are willing to respect it as well. For those who work in a busy environment should not hesitate to put a long time duration for tasks and should not take it as their inefficiency but as an approach to set correct expectation and avoid unnecessary frustrations.

I think it is fair if you respond with a bit of explanation that cannot address the request immediately. You may see some of the people not willing to understand and unreasonably demanding responses even for non-critical situations but you shall be able to respond professionally if you have got habit of building a task list – and not marking all items to “to be responded ASAP”.

If you are one of those like younger me – please try to drop this word and let me know how you go on. I feel the one place where this word suits the best is “Please stop using ‘ASAP’ ASAP if you do not want to lose your credibility ASAP”.

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