ASAP – Automatic Schedule Assassination Problem

I have a process. A schedule. A tightly packed schedule. There's really no time in there to squeeze something quick, ASAP, or in a couple of hours.

“I need this ASAP.”

“You don’t still work all night anymore?!”

“I’m sending out an email later today, so if you could get this posted before then, that’d be great”

“Can you do this real quick?”

“It’ll only take you like 5 minutes.”

What it really means when you say ASAP

I have a process. A schedule. A tightly packed schedule. My days are crammed full of work tasks, dogs, and farm work. I have a family. I have errands to run. My life is just like normal folks, only my commute is shorter.

When Sunday afternoon rolls around, I sit down at my desk, grab my project forms and start prioritizing. I dig through emails, texts, voicemails and FB private messenger looking for tasks that didn’t come through the proper channel. I do this because I don’t want anything to fall through the cracks.

I optimistically schedule all that work to fit within a reasonable time each day. I pack each day full, with a plan to work a good 12 hours – with dog walks and hugs mixed in there. Each day that I know is going to end in chaos and confusion.

By Wednesday I’m already 4 days behind schedule, hoping I can catch up over the weekend.

Why?

Because of the word ASAP.

ASAP in my world means AUTOMATIC SCHEDULE ASSASSINATION PROBLEM.

I know my schedule is fixing to take a hit because someone didn’t plan their schedule. I know my patience will be tested. I know my feelings will be a bit hurt, because clearly this person doesn’t value my time or schedule.

Care plans are ‘too expensive’

I offer maintenance and care plans to all my customers. This is a set amount of time blocked off each month to take care of all the updates, last minute deadlines, and quick changes. The customers who pay for that time immediately fall into the ‘priority client‘ category. They’ve paid for an ounce of my flesh in advance, and I honor that agreement by always putting them first.

Ninety percent (90%) of my clients are not on a care plan. But they treat work tasks as if they are though. These are the clients that throw the term ASAP around loosely, and with great aplomb. For years I’ve had a pretty light schedule, and when someone called or emailed, I could afford to drop everything and get whatever they needed done.

No harm, no foul.

As time, and business, has gone by that is no longer the case. I’ve offered care plans to the worst offenders and they think the plans are too expensive. They don’t want to pay in advance because they may not have any work for me to do. Seems like a waste of money, they say.

I get that.

However…

Priority, right this second, let me rearrange my entire week’s schedule for last minute work — even if it only takes 5 minutes — isn’t included on the non-care-plan plan.

Let’s recap the vital info from above:

I optimistically schedule all that work to fit within a reasonable time each day. I pack each day full, with a plan to work a good 12 hours – with dog walks and hugs mixed in there. Each day that I know is going to end in chaos and confusion.

What happens when I squeeze an unplanned project in

My days are packed full when I make my schedule out on Sunday evening. There’s really no time in there to squeeze something quick, ASAP, or in a couple of hours.

And it’s not fair for me to drop a priority client, or one who turned something in last week, to squeeze in work from a client I haven’t talked to in months.

Beyond how these unplanned, immediate, projects affect my other clients, it really affects my schedule. I fall behind. I’m perpetually stressed because I see deadlines slipping, errands that don’t get done, have to work longer days, work on the weekends, and quit taking care of my family.

I quit the agency life years ago to work for myself. To get away from poorly planned projects with tight deadlines and high stress. To not have to work 70 and 80 hour weeks to meet impossible deadlines for people who did not care about the health of my team or I.

Yet, here I am. Again. And I only have myself to blame.

I’m a people pleaser, and it shows

When someone calls needing help, I can’t help myself from wanting to pitch in and save the day. A client can’t afford what they need so I make deals, cut my rate, or tell them we’ll catch up the bill later.

Later usually never comes and we never catch up.

Someone calls and needs something right now, and I drop what I’m doing to help them out. I don’t charge extra for that, so you know what happens? They do it again.

And again.

I tell myself I’ll have time to work with the dogs and horses…someday. When I get the work done.

I tell myself we’ll be able to buy that thing we need. When I make more money.

But I’ll never have time or enough money with the way things are. It seems everyone is pleased. But me. And I don’t have much to show for the efforts except a large stack of unfinished work, and bags under my eyes.

Change is inevitable

Things must change. I could raise my rates for rush jobs. Or do like so many other web developers have done, and not do any maintenance at all unless the client has a care plan. I’m not quite ready to cut my clients off. I truly do like them all. But I do think charging more per hour for something titled ASAP is a must.

Expecting respect for my time, experience and knowledge isn’t so far fetched either.

By making a few subtle changes, I’ll either have more time in my day, or more money in my pocket. And that kind of change isn’t such a bad thing.

Why am I telling you this

I aired this dirty laundry here for a few reasons. One, this is business 101. As a business owner yourself you will encounter customers that will try to negotiate, get over, walk on, bully, or smooth talk their way around your price, schedule or processes. It’s human nature.

By blaming the client, you become hard and bitter, rather than fixing the issue. Taking a hard look in the mirror is the first place to start.

The first step in fixing a business with growing pains, is to set your price, schedule and processes in stone. Stand up for them. If there is a need for you to deviate from that, then charge accordingly.

If you called a plumber on Christmas Eve at 9:30 pm, he’ll charge you a premium rate. Our business, yours and mine, is no different. For me, I’m either booked up, or can squeeze you in at an emergency rate. Pick and choose.

For me and my business, the more flexible a client is, the easier it is for me to squeeze something in. The size of the job also matters. And I shouldn’t have to mention it, but will…there will be an invoice involved when the job is done. Expecting anyone to work just 5 minutes without pay is smarmy. Because multiple 5 minutes-es add up, don’t they?

Having trouble in your business? Create some time to (re)set your processes. Set your schedule. Set a price structure for everything you do. Set (in stone) all the things you won’t do and the times you’re willing (or not) to do the ones you will.

Boundaries. Set them for your own mental health.

Change is hard

My clients will be getting the good news about my new rate structure soon. They won’t like it. I may even lose one or two. And that’s okay. I’m growing. My business is growing. And while change is difficult for everyone, sometimes it’s for all the right reasons. Even if it’s hard.

shelly-50cal

Shelly Haffly

Creative Director
Shelly is a 30 year veteran of the graphic and digital industry, having worked with and for the nation's leading Fortune 500 companies. A driven, no-nonsense kind of gal who works tirelessly to help clients build their business to epic proportions.
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