Experienced tech writers have gone through this a million times, but for the new writers out there: beware the job that’s due ASAP.
A client requesting a document “ASAP” kind of reminds me of a two-year-old using a curse word. On the one hand, it’s hilarious. But on the other, it could be embarrassing and you want to teach them not to do it again.
And anyway, the child learned the word from you, which she never would have if that idiot in the blue Toyota hadn’t cut you off while merging onto the highway. But I digress.
To a conscientious writer, “ASAP” can mean, “drop everything else and get this delivered… as soon as you possibly can.” I mean, “as soon as possible” is the definition of “ASAP,” right?
The problem is that “ASAP” often means something less than “as soon as you possibly can.” It often means something like, “we don’t have a schedule, so we can’t give you a due date.”
Maybe someone just realised that the company has gone eight months without a document about logging in to the system. It’s not on the critical path for any project, but they’d really like it done.
On the other hand, it’s been eight months, so how urgent is it, really?
Then (raise your hands if this has happened to you) you deliver the work in record time, flush with the thrill of beating expectations, only to wait a week or two before anyone even looks at it. You may put your hands down.
You didn’t rise your hand? Come back and read this post in a year. It will happen.
Now, let’s be careful here. The client isn’t trying to be a jerk. It’s just that “ASAP” can be a casual thing or a serious thing. It’s the writer’s job to figure out which.
So when you’re given ASAP as the due date, my advice is the following:
Very politely, and in your own words, ask whether your document is going to save Metropolis from imminent peril, or is it going to mow the lawn so neighbors stop complaining.
Now, you tell me, is “ASAP” a universal issue, or have I suffered more than most? Is there a better way to handle it?