ASAP, JIT, 24/7 and a few more…


“And I need this report ASAP!” Familiar? Who has never been confronted with this (possibly pushy) deadline in his/her professional life? ASAP (as soon as possible) is a common time expression in predominantly monochronic or linear cultures where people experience time as a continuum or a sequence. In global, modern management, it often means “right now, this minute” (or even preferably “yesterday”). However, it is subject to cultural interpretations. For people in more polychronic or synchronic societies, it can literally mean as soon as it is possible to make time for it, depending on various constraints or even fate, so maybe much later. This often results in misunderstandings or conflicts, especially when protagonists ignore each other’s time perceptions.

JIT (just in time) is another expression used in logistics and stock management. It means delivering goods to the client or supply chain as closely as possible to a deadline, to save costs. The expression originated in Japan and is an excellent combination of structure and planning (monochronic approach) and flexibility, improvisation and creativity (polychronic). The Japanese are good at combining in time and on time, and at realizing things in the nick of time (at the last possible moment). For details about in time vs on time, see here.

Other expressions that are embedded in monochronic cultures are: Around the clock, 24/7, all year round, emphasizing the circularity of time. Also consider: Beat the clock (to do something quickly before you run out of time) or against the clock (being rushed and having little time to do it) in the well-known rat race we are in. Not to forget time is money: your time is a valuable commodity. Time flies (when you are having fun) has a friendlier connotation. Finally, clock in and clock out to record the time you arrive or leave your job, a common practice in business… not in use (yet) at TU/e.

What about kill time? In linear cultures it sounds rather negative, but in more polychronic ones it is more valued, as a way to enjoy (free) time. It relates to take one day at a time (dealing with things as they happen and not to worry about the future). The ultimate degree of this more flexible perception of time is of course the Epicurean carpe diem (seize the day). Students seem to enjoy it around the globe and around the clock! Others call this procrastination or even student syndrome. Anyway, whatever your attitude, make sure time is your friend, not your enemy.

Deel dit artikel