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“At Your Earliest Convenience” Yay or Nay?

Posted On: March 3, 2024

The use of “at your earliest convenience” is often used in professional emails in some business cultures.

What type of response may you get while working with US Americans when using “at your earliest convenience?”

Well, this phrase, while it can sound polite, is not specific, so it can also be read as “whenever I want” as there is no deadline or urgency.

This could mean that these emails often may not be answered within a reasonable amount of time or by a deadline that helps you get the work done efficiently.

How to resolve this problem?

We need to remove this phrase and replace it with specifics.

Let’s take a look at some sample emails.

 

Ideas to Replace “At your earliest convenience”

 

Mary,

As a follow-up to our call yesterday to kick off our training program, I understand you and your manager, Todd, will conduct several focus groups to collect information and insights for program development. I look forward to your insights at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,
Paul Jones

 

Let’s see how to make this request more specific. In addition to changing the request “at your earliest convenience,” I will also add some much-needed small talk to warm up the conversation.

 

Mary,

Hi! Hope your day is going well. Thank you for spending time with me yesterday to discuss the kickoff for the training program that we are initially planning to get started three months from now (the tentative kickoff will be on June 15, 2025).

I am also glad to hear you will have Todd’s assistance to help you with getting the focus groups planned and conducted and the information from those sessions analyzed for our program development.

To help us keep the project on task and give me enough time to analyze the information, it would be ideal if you could share the outcomes from the focus groups no later than one month before our kickoff date, so if the information could be shared on or before May 15, 2025, that would really help me to keep on track. Do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything I can do to help out. Also, I do know we will be meeting every other week between now and then, which will be helpful for me to take notes along the way as we go through the focus group process.

Thank you,
Paul Jones

 

What differences did you notice in these two emails?

 

Of course, in this example, we are looking at getting information for months out in advance. How would we manage this, for instance, if I needed the information within three days? We can just adapt the message and the call to action accordingly.

Let’s take a different example:

 

Mary,

I’m glad I was able to catch you today to discuss the documents we need to onboard the new team member to our project. I look forward to receiving those updated documents at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,
Paul Jones

 

Let’s update this without the phrase “at your earliest convenience:”

 

Mary,

I’m glad I was able to catch you today to discuss the documents we need to onboard the new team member to our project. I know you have a busy schedule, however, as we have the same goal of onboarding this new team member by next Monday, August 26, that gives me three more business days to get this process going. To ensure we aren’t running behind and the documents are received and processed on time, I need to receive these documents by tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20 end of business day, 5pm EST.

I appreciate your timely attention to this. I will also keep you updated on this process once I get the documents, process them, and submit them for final confirmation.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions along the way.

Thank you,
Paul Jones

 

What differences did you notice between these two emails?

While there are many differences, I want to highlight these differences:

  1. How the colleague’s help will help me in the overall process and deadline dates.
  2. I have taken the time to thank my counterpart for their time. This helps build rapport with your US counterpart.
  3. I have made some small talk which always warms the request.
  4. When working across time zones always note what EOD (end of business day) means in the exact time and time zone.
  5. I have provided context. I often refer to this as ‘work-related small talk.’ This helps the person reading the message make the connection to who and what very quickly. Often those we send emails to recieve emails from many different people every day, and as they may not always relate our name to that specific request, so it’s always helpful to provide context.

    This means it will take your counterpart less time to connect the dots to who, what, why, and when which will help you get a quicker, more collaborative, and agreeable response.

 

What Changes Will I See Once I Make These Changes?

Often when others initiate these lessons, they notice amazing results such as their emails are responded to in less than a day or two along with the information they requested- this is in comparison to the normal wait of up to a week or more with several check in emails during that week.

 

Still not getting responses in a timely way?

If you notice that you are not getting responses to your requests in a timely manner, go back to your messages to see how you are requesting the information.

 

Checklist to Ensure More Timely Reponses for Deadlines

Use these questions as a checklist to see how your message stacks up (compares):

  1. I used small talk to warm the interaction. – Yes or No
  2. I thanked my counterpart for their time. –  Yes or No
  3. My message notes a specific date (and or time by which) I need the information. –  Yes or No
  4. My message shares more about the context of the entire project timeline and how getting the requested information by the requested date will help me get things done within the allocated time. (This may be optional depending on the request.) –  Yes or No

Implementing these communication techniques will not only reduce the time for you to get your responses and requested information but will also reduce the time for you to get your work done, meaning you can help your colleagues, clients, and stakeholders in a much more timely fashion building more trusting relationships which secure business relations over a longer duration.

 

image credit: jcomp at pixabay

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