Service of ASAP

October 27th, 2014

Categories: ASAP, Uncategorized, Work

do it now

I’m careful not to rush a person if my deadline isn’t imminent so that when I say I need something urgently, I hope that they take my request seriously. Some people say they need everything “right away.”  So I was drawn to Rob Walker’s “The Workologist” New York Times column, “What ‘ASAP’ Really Means.”

Walker responded to Eugene who complained that he stayed late to finish a project that came with an ASAP request “only to learn later that the project sat on someone else’s desk, ignored for days or weeks afterwards.”

hurryWalker wrote: “You get a request to fill out a report — or whatever — ‘as soon as possible.’ You consider how soon you might actually be able to do it, given everything else you’re dealing with. Then you add some extra time.

“And so you respond: ‘Sure, no problem. I’m finishing some other deadline work at the moment, but I can have that for you by the end of Friday.’ (Obviously, you shouldn’t get greedy. Saying you can do it by the end of the decade is a nonstarter.) In the age of email, it’s a good idea to close with something that concretely pushes responsibility back to the request-maker: ‘I’ll shoot for that unless I hear otherwise from you today.’”

working lateThe first time I said to my boss’s boss that I couldn’t meet an “I need it now” deadline was a shock to me which is why I remember it so clearly. It was 4 pm when he sauntered into my office [I was the lowest person on the totem pole]. He’d no doubt heard that I was at my desk until at least 8 almost every night. He handed me a folder and said he needed this job done by first thing in the morning.

Trouble was I was expected at a dinner that evening to celebrate a big family occasion. There was no way I could work late or finish the project in three hours. Further I had seen the folder on his desk for weeks. So I stuck to my guns, said I’d get right on it and would finish it when I got in the next day—but it wouldn’t be done first thing. Nothing happened: I wasn’t fired.

Have you worked with people for whom everything’s ASAP? How do you handle it?

stop watch

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8 Responses to “Service of ASAP”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna Boyle Schwartz wrote on Facebook: “I try to strictly ration my ‘urgent’ requests of people, so that when I really DO need something on a tight deadline, I’m more likely to get cooperation. As for people/clients requesting something ASAP, I always try to accommodate them when possible…and if I can’t, I’m very upfront about the reason. Even in the age of email, most people actually ARE reasonable…..”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I also try to accommodate clients. Some bosses appear to love chaos. I worked for one of those. In the days of fat press kits he’d glory watching us stuffing them late into the night. My preference was to complete the projects calmly, with time to ship the work to a press kit assembly shop. They looked better and without the last minute nuttiness, had fewer mistakes.

  3. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: “I for one do NOT miss hauling around those fat press kits! Gice me a USB thumb drive any day!”

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    They cost a fortune too–when we moved to CDs, yikes!

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Guess I lucked out, since I don’t recall anyone breathing fire down my neck. It’s a lucky thing, since me and that little two letter “N” word are pretty close…..

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are lucky!

    Short order cooks and hospital emergency room staff, to name two, must be able to handle the “get it for me yesterday” schedule day in and out and only certain personalities can take the pressure. I prefer to have a bunch of things on my plate and try to get things done in advance so there’s a margin of time to handle emergencies and still make all the other deadlines. But if procrastinators count on good souls/quick colleagues to consistently pull out their projects from the almost late pile, those good souls will eventually have had enough of them and they will be ignored.

  7. JPM Said:

    To answer your questions:

    I tended to tell the truth about how long it would take to get jobs done, and since most bosses believed me, there were few problems.

    One boss, a Business School “by the book” type, did not, and we parted ways.

    It always helps any boss to know the truth.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right and I want to know but not everyone does. Yes men and women flourish.

    Imagine being faced with an angry, fly-off-the-handle type of boss or client. The last thing you want is to enrage the person. The first thing you should do is to try to get away from them for your health, or you’ll end up supporting the aspirin and acid indigestion medicine industries.

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