Why “ASAP” isn’t clear communication—and what to use instead

Recently, I found myself saying the very word I’ve cautioned others against using many times. Here’s what happened. I noticed something was wrong on my website, so I reached out to my project manager, John. John’s a reliable guy and I knew he could help with this issue. My fingers were flying, as this was an important matter. Here’s when I made my mistake: “John,” I typed, “I need you to fix this ASAP.” This wasn’t clear communication.

As soon as I hit ‘send,’ it was like a needle scratching across the grooves of an LP. “ASAP” is one of those words—or one of those acronyms, if we’re being technical—that means nothing and everything at the same time, especially from a time management perspective. I address this in The Myth of Multitasking.

When you say you need something as soon as possible, what does that really mean? In an hour? By the end of the day? The end of the week? There are many ways in which a co-worker can interpret your words. So, choose them a bit more carefully.

Instead of hitting the panic button when an urgent matter pops up, reframe things. Use clear communication. Categorize these tasks as either emergencies or deadlines. Call it an emergency only when it is truly justified to do so. If something just requires a deadline, simply communicate exactly when you need it done by.

Let’s kill “ASAP” ASAP.

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