The curse of ASAP

Ist2_1162594_rubber_stamp_urgent When someone tells you a task needs to be done ASAP, how do you feel? Pressured right? This is a task of such priority it needs to be completed as soon as humanly possible. Which is pretty darn soon.

The trouble is ASAP has no context and no deadline. As soon as possible could mean now or it could mean tomorrow or next week. It simply radiates non-specified urgency. This task is so urgent it can’t even be allocated a meaningful deadline. That’s how urgent the task I’ve just dumped on your plate is.

Often ASAP is just lazy delegation. The task-giver can’t be bothered to think through a timeline so just says soon as poss. And herein lies the problem since the deadline is vague, so is the priority. This means one of two things happens – the task either gets done there and then or it gets dropped in favor of more specific tasks. There is little mid-ground.

If the delegator is senior, the task gets a reflected importance and often gets done. Perhaps to the exclusion of a more important, but less urgent task. If the delegator is junior, then the task often falls into the mire of ‘someday’. And ‘someday’ never comes.

So please don’t use ASAP when delegating. It ramps the pressure on your team. And your task might get a false priority or it might get dropped. Either way, it’s worth spending the extra sixty seconds to think through a proper timeline and to delegate effectively.