“As Soon As Possible” is Too Soon: Why ASAP Culture is Bad for Everybody

asap culture

Our culture is spoiled by speed. We think nothing of transoceanic flights that cover distances in a matter of hours that 100 years ago would have taken months. On the Internet, we measure time by the millisecond, and quickly become frustrated when a webpage takes even a few seconds to load (ugh…that’s literally thousands of milliseconds!!) But perhaps no part of our culture is as obsessed with speed as the world of business (well, possibly NASCAR).

Prompt attention is obviously an important part of every business, but because technology has enabled us to communicate across more and more space in less and less time, “As Soon As Possible” basically means “Immediately”, since “Possible” has come to mean “Now.”

Our New Mantra: “Speed is Good.”

To be sure, the ease of fast communication is a good thing. The problem arises when we go from valuing speed as a useful tool to instead fetishizing it as a good in and of itself. If the mantra of the business world in the 1980s was that famous Gordon Gekko line from Wall Street—“Greed is good”—a quick rewrite could yield the new mantra of business in the 21st century: “Speed is good.”

Because we know that every message could be returned nearly instantaneously, we easily fall into the trap of thinking that every message should. Employees race to respond to their superiors’ emails to show that they are ambitious go-getters, and when we send emails, we get stressed waiting to hear back even though we don’t really need or want an immediate reply at all. Because we know they could have answered by now, we worry about why our recipients haven’t: Did it send properly? Did I offend them somehow? Did someone forget to tell me that, actually, I’ve been fired, and now they are trying to figure out the least awkward way to let me know?

When “Soon” Means “Bad”

This “ASAP culture” of instant replies is bad for everybody. When we race to respond immediately, the quality of our replies suffers: we shoot off rushed and half-formed thoughts, or, worse, inane kick-the-can non-questions (“Interesting stuff! I’d love to get Accounting’s take on this”) which are the email thread equivalent of raising your hand and saying “Here!”

And because our email threads fill up with unimportant placeholders, it actually takes longer for anything substantive to transpire, and information that actually is relevant can get lost in the shuffle. The current email environment makes us at once both more stressed out and less productive. It’s like eating at a bad fancy restaurant—“The food is really horrible, but don’t worry, it’s also insanely expensive!”

The End of Automatic ASAP

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix to all this instantaneous angst. It requires the sender to do exactly two things:

1. Think about when they actually want a reply.

2. Tell the recipient.

This is where Timyo comes in. Timyo makes it easier than ever to complete these two steps. When you send an email, you simply select how you’d like your recipient to react—reply, just read, or act upon the email’s contents in another way—and when you would like them to do it—ASAP, Today, Tomorrow, or a specific date. As you can see, ASAP is still in the mix, but by offering other choices, ASAP is no longer the default.

By simply deciding when you want to hear back and letting the recipient know, you relieve your recipients of the burden of instant expectations, and you free yourself from constantly worrying about when you’ll receive a reply. And because you’ve included your expected reply date in the email, Timyo can use Auto-Reminder to keep track of when replies are overdue, which means you don’t have to.

With Timyo, email goes from “As Soon As Possible” to “As Good As Possible”… I think you’ll agree that that’s a change we all have time for.

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