What Does 'ASAP' Mean?
"ASAP" is an acronym for "As Soon as Possible." It is often used in business correspondence to request the timely return of a deliverable such as a contract, an email response, or a piece of information. For example, "Could you please return the signed agreement ASAP?"
"Can you send me that contract ASAP?" "Will you share your feedback ASAP?" "I'll get back to you as soon as possible."
You've likely read these sentences in your inbox a hundred times. And, if you're like me, you cringe every time.
There are several problems with this phrase: First, it's vague. Do you need the contract by the end of the week or by the end of the day? "As soon as possible" leaves a lot to the imagination.
Also, the request is often urgent for the other person, but not for me; it makes them seem self-important and demanding; and if the timing doesn’t align with my work schedule, I feel stressed and anxious.
That’s a pretty strong reaction to four simple words.
Fortunately, you can use 12 alternatives to communicate a sense of urgency without resorting to “ASAP.”
'As Soon As Possible' Synonyms
1. “... by [date and time] because [reason]”
Do you have a specific deadline by which this task needs to be done? Use that instead. If the other person has an exact time, they can prioritize their other work accordingly. Plus, you’ll seem less pushy since you have a clear reasoning for your due date.
2. “When you have a chance [in the next day, before tomorrow, this week]”
Saying “when you have a chance” gives the other person a little breathing room, so you don’t come across as demanding. However, the deadline ensures they’ll still finish your request on time.
3. “I apologize for the urgency, but could you please [do X, send me Y, complete Z] at your soonest possible convenience?”
This politely worded question communicates the same level of urgency as “ASAP” but in a far more considerate way.
All but the most pressing requests can typically wait eight hours. “EOD” shows you’d like the request fulfilled soon, but you’re not asking the other person to drop everything to tackle it.
5. “I’d be grateful if you got to this [before X and Y].”
Show the other person where this request falls in terms of importance on their to-do list.
6. “Since this is a relatively urgent ask, let’s put a hold on [X project, Y meeting, Z deliverable] until you’re finished.”
When you’re talking to a direct report, use this line. It helps them stay on top of their workload and shows you’re not arbitrarily assigning them work.
7. “Is [date and time] feasible for [reviewing the contract, arranging a meeting with Procurement, getting the agreement through Legal]?”
Want to ensure your prospect doesn’t drag their feet too much? Pick a deadline that’s earlier than your optimal one. For example, if you want them to sign the dotted line in the next four weeks, you’d choose a day two weeks away.
If your prospect says, “I need more time,” respond, “Okay, would it be feasible for you to send me any initial comments by that date?”
Your request seems more reasonable because you’ve “modified” it to suit their timeline. In practice, you’ve actually gotten them to commit to making progress before your ideal deadline.
And if your prospect says, “Sure, we can do that”? The deal is now closing even sooner than you’d hoped for.
8. “ASAP, or by [date and time].”
“As soon as possible” is pretty vague, so if you must use it, add a date and time to show how important your ask is. For instance, you might write, “Please submit your specs ASAP, or by Thursday at 4 p.m.”
9. “I normally wouldn’t ask for such a quick turnaround, but [reason for urgency]. It would be great if you could address this by [date and time].”
Giving an explanation for the tight deadline proves you understand it might be inconvenient for the other person. A little empathy will go a long way.
10. “This is time-sensitive.”
Communicate the need for speed in four simple words.
11. “[Timely ask]”
Want to really get someone’s attention? Add “[timely ask]” to the end of your email subject line. Not only will it stand out in their inbox, but they’ll be curious to know what’s so pressing.
Just make sure the matter actually is timely -- and not just for you, but for them too. If you’re trying to get them to buy in the next six hours so you make quota, rushing them to the finish line will make you look pushy and could backfire.
12. “Your quick response would be appreciated.”
When you’re trying to get a swift reply, try this line. It can come across as passive-agressive, however, so I’d use it sparingly.
If you use "EOW" to describe your desired delivery date, make sure you add that it means by "End of Week" so there's no confusion over the acronym.
14. "I'll get you an answer shortly -- by the end of the day"
If you do tell your prospect you'll get them a response "shortly" this is another instance when it's important to add a timeframe to explain what "shortly" means to you.
15. "This is our top priority. Could you have it done by [date and time]."
Prospects aren't mind readers. If you need them to prioritize a task, simply ask. Be willing to negotiate -- after all, they're not necessarily bound or accountable to your timeline, but most of the time they'll work with you.
16. "Would you mind prioritizing this above X and Y?"
Again, when appropriate, don't be afraid to ask your prospect to prioritize one task over another during your deal.
17. "I wanted to bump this up in your inbox. Would you mind replying by [date and time]? [Reason]."
Sometimes, the reason a prospect hasn't gotten you an answer or returned a deliverable is because they've simply forgotten. Politely remind them and include a reason for this task's timely completion.
Next time speed is of the essence, try these alternatives to "ASAP" to avoid annoying your recipient.