The Problem with ASAP and What is Actually More Effective

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For years I’ve noticed the acronym, ASAP (as soon as possible) used when it comes to business. Many times there is also a serious disconnect when it comes to determining what should actually occur, “as soon as possible” versus what needs to have a realistic, planned deadline. 

The Fast-Paced World 

I think part of the issue with how frequently ASAP is used is simply due to the fact that the pace of life in modern society has sped up drastically over time. Even during what is supposed to be “down time”, we’re all still working. Think about these statistics collected by Harris Interactive on behalf of TeamViewer:

Also, a small survey of entrepreneurs conducted by TAB shows that a whopping 49% work 50 or more hours a week.

Both of these surveys were conducted in 2013, so the numbers have likely stayed the same or increased, rather than decreased. Working long hours seems to have turned into a bragging right and requirement, rather than something that is only done when absolutely necessary. 

It’s not just work either. The popularity of mobile devices means that we can instantly do research, check email, schedule appointments, make phone calls, and accomplish a myriad of other business and personal tasks at any time (including after hours, weekends, and on vacation). We want, and often expect, everything right now. 

The New Normal

I do remember a time in the not too distant past where if someone said they needed something ASAP, that meant that it was absolutely critical. In fact, it could have been a borderline emergency. For instance, the company’s ecommerce website has gone down in the first week of December and no one is able to buy anything. That actually would need to be fixed right away. It would be appropriate to explain the situation to a programmer and tell them to fix it ASAP.

In contrast, if it’s March, the company website needs to be redesigned, you just started having meetings about it, and it needs to launch by July 1st, you do not need to see design concepts ASAP.

Of course these are examples in my business, but parallels can be found in every business.

When ASAP is the new normal, what is an actual, critical, or emergency deadline defined as? Everything can’t be done “now”, so we must be able to evaluate a project or situation properly to determine an actual, realistic deadline for it. 

ASAP Is Not Accurate

Asking for something to be done ASAP really doesn’t give anyone an exact deadline. “As soon as possible” can be very nebulous and depend on a number of other factors. For instance, if you tell your designer that you need a concept ASAP but they have a queue of jobs lined up, are you expecting them to move your job to the front of the line? What if they have several other people who also need their concepts ASAP? What if they have to unexpectedly go out of town for 3 days? You can see how your vague ASAP can easily lead to you not getting your project done quickly. 

Better Than ASAP

So what’s better than getting something “as soon as possible”? Setting an actual deadline. Also, evaluate whether the situation really is critical. It’s far better to plan a deadline well in advance than to scramble around at the last minute or rely on this vague and overused acronym. 

Next project you undertake, be sure to scope it out well in advance and work with your creative team to come up with milestone deadlines and a final delivery date.

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