My manager asked me to finish the project as early as possible

Here there is no fixed deadline available but the manager wants me to finish the project soon. Consider the case where there is a deadline but I can take as much time as I want before the deadline to finish the project. In this case, is it appropriate for a person to say, "You can finish the project as late as possible (meaning, you have time to do), but do it before the deadline expires"?

I am looking for an exact opposite phrase for as early as possible. If it is not there, is there a phrase which can capture what I have mentioned in the above mentioned paragraph?

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    If there is a deadline, you can't take as much time as you want by definition. This is just the next step down from "do this as soon as possible" -- it is "do this before date X". That it doesn't matter exactly when before that is implied by the fact that he didn't mention anything further, it simply is what it is. – RemcoGerlich May 12 '16 at 11:12
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    Arguably, "as early as possible" indicates a de facto deadline of "now". There is no "opposite of now". – Monty Harder May 12 '16 at 14:06
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    But you are not looking for the exact opposite. On or before is not the same the opposite of ASAP. – paparazzo May 12 '16 at 16:34
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    Surely the opposite of "as early as possible" is "as late as possible"? – TrevorD May 12 '16 at 22:34
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    That's funny, you can't really "reverse" that statement and have it make sense: "As late as impossible". – BruceWayne May 13 '16 at 20:16

26 Answers 26


In business context, I would say, "Finish the project when (whenever) it is convenient for you before the deadline".

I have never heard someone say, "Please finish it as late as possible" which would be understood as the speaker wants you to finish the project at the latest moment before the deadline.

But, if you say "when it is convenient for you", it doesn't impose any urgency and the speaker can wait until it is finished before the deadline.

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    I think that this is correct. Questioner, i think you have made a mistake in thinking that you want something that is the opposite of "early as possible". What you should be focussing on is not the time of delivery but the degree of urgency: "as soon as possible" means "very urgent", so the "opposite" of this would be "with no urgency at all". In practise, there is no such thing as "no urgency at all" as that implies you can just completely forget about it. It would be better to say that the degree of urgency is "very low", which is the same as saying that it is not urgent – Max Williams May 12 '16 at 10:48
  • @MaxWilliams In order to avoid the case of completely forgetting about the work, I have specifically mentioned about the deadlines. So, if there is a deadline, I thought there would be something that will be the opposite of "early as possible". Correct me if I am wrong. – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan May 12 '16 at 10:59
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    "as early as possible" is an figure of speech: literally, it would mean "within the smallest possible time unit known to physics, some minute fraction of a second". Obviously it doesn't mean this. It means "as soon as you can do it, ignoring as much of everything else as possible". So, given that it's a figure of speech, trying to define the "opposite" of it is difficult and actually a waste of time. The opposite of the literal meaning might be "at the very end of the universe, in billions of years time". That's not what your manager means. He just means it's not urgent. – Max Williams May 12 '16 at 11:15
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    Just to add to my last comment, in this context "not urgent" means "I'd expect you to do it at some point in the near future, perhaps in the next week or two, when you've got the more urgent stuff out of the way". The exact time frame will vary. Your manager will, at some point, say something like "Did you manage to get that job done yet?", you say "No", then he says something which bumps its urgency up a bit because he does actually need it to be done at some point. – Max Williams May 12 '16 at 11:19
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    "as early as possible" is an figure of speech: literally, it would mean "within the smallest possible time unit known to physics, some minute fraction of a second". - @MaxWilliams - What? It's not a figure of speech. If the task is "Retype this 2000 word report", then doing it in "some minute fraction of a second" is not possible, because nobody can type that fast. Doing it in 5 minutes is not possible either, because nobody types at 400wpm. "I need this done yesterday" is a figure of speech... – nnnnnn May 14 '16 at 4:48

I would say "at your convenience". This gives the impression that the person should complete the work but within the time period he is comfortable and fits into his schedule.


Please complete the project at your convenience, but keep in mind the deadline.

  • If that's all you've to say, use the comments section. If you really wanted to answer, please answer it properly with some more details. – NVZ May 12 '16 at 10:07
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    No, don't use comments for pseudo-answers, either! – Oddthinking May 12 '16 at 10:16
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    @NVZ The length of the original makes it a bad answer but still an answer that should be posted as an answer rather than a comment. As a comment it couldn't have been edited to the better form it's in now. – SuperBiasedMan May 12 '16 at 13:36
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    @SuperBiasedMan I'm aware. But my comment was meant to encourage the user to improve this answer rather than make it a comment. And apparently it worked. +1 – NVZ May 12 '16 at 13:43
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    @NVZ Yes indeed, it was your comment which made me to elaborate the answer. Thanks for that! – Srikanta May 14 '16 at 5:55

The question is a little unclear about the request. Some readers have interpreted it as "finish at any time you like", some as "finish any time you like, as long as it is before the deadline" and some as "start as late as you can, while still finishing before the deadline." I have read it as the latter meaning. This is not an unusual approach in projects - e.g. if there is a risk that the requirements are still changing; there is a risk the project might be cancelled in the short term; if you are doing some operation which is more efficient in bulk so it is better to wait for as many inputs as possible to arrive; or if it has to be done as the last task - like sweeping the sawdust off the floor.

At the last minute is an idiom for not starting until you absolutely have to. It tends to have negative connotations - i.e. that you were procrastinating, rather than deliberately timing it.

In the manufacturing industry, Just In Time refers to a philosophy of having all the materials arrive to be worked on as late as possible while still being in time. It is a deliberate effort to reduce the costs of maintaining a big inventory. So you could say "do this just in time to meet the deadline."

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    This answer deserves the green tick for "Just in time". I think it captures the essence of "as close to the deadline as possible" and ties it to a commercial practice. – Lawrence May 12 '16 at 10:45
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    @Lawrence Carefully reading the question suggests that that isn't really what the OP wants, in my opinion. – Casey May 12 '16 at 11:08
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    @Casey Perhaps, but it is a sensible guess at the intent behind the request (finish as late as possible, before the deadline) that the OP is asking about. I can imagine asking for something ASAP, at one's leisure without a deadline, or on the dot, but to ask for something close to the deadline while implying that it can be done at any time prior seems odd outside of JIT. – Lawrence May 12 '16 at 11:49
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    When I carefully read OP’s question, this is exactly what is being asked: There is a deadline and as long as the task is completed before the deadline the work can be started at any time I think Microsoft Project calls this as late as possible – Jim May 12 '16 at 19:45
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    @Lawrence Where does the OP say anything about JIT? It sounds to me like he's describing a scenario where nobody cares when it's done as long as it's done by _____. – Casey May 12 '16 at 21:30

I would go with "as time permits". It's not an idiom, as far as I've been able to discover, but I've heard it quite frequently.

Finish the project as time permits, but before the deadline.

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    "As time permits" implies that if time doesn't permit, it's okay not to complete the task. That is not the situation the OP presented. – Sled May 12 '16 at 14:58
  • @ArtB, true, but when your boss tells you to do something it is never permissible to not do it :). "As time permits" in managerese means "Don't interfere with higher priority work, but get it done even if you have to do it on your own time" – Michael J. May 12 '16 at 17:20
  • Well there is stuff that is left for "bench time". Like it would be a nice to have, but its not part the main deliverables. Updating documentation, improving on-boarding materials, writing for the corporate blog etc. – Sled May 12 '16 at 18:07

I'd just say No hurry or No Rush after describing what to do. Sometimes, please take your time.

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    Note that the OP still has a deadline. – Oddthinking May 12 '16 at 10:17
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    Something like "other than the deadline, there's no rush". – Matt E. Эллен May 12 '16 at 11:14
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    No immediate hurry is quite apt. – PCARR May 15 '16 at 0:30
  • The above might be amplified by "Do a thorough job" and/or "Consider all aspects." – Scott May 16 '16 at 5:14

Borrowing from my Scrum experience, I'd like to throw in Last Responsible Moment; basically, leave it until the point before it would become a problem.

Just one definition: http://www.innolution.com/resources/glossary/last-responsible-moment-lrm


There's no need to complicate it with an unnecessary catchphrase: Just say what the requirements are.

"Take as much time as you like" would be a good way to put it - which is the way you put it in the question, and would be fully understood (and also understood that you still need to actually finish it on time).

If you need to emphasize how unimportant it is, you could also just say it is "low-priority", and leave it at that.


By definition, having a deadline implies that you need to finish by a certain date/time and are free to use ALL of the time between now and the deadline but anyways I would use phrases such as:

Please have this project done by mm/dd/yyyy


This project should be finished no later than mm/dd/yyyy


This project cannot go beyond mm/dd/yyyy

or (credit to Paparazzi)

The task has a deadline of mm/dd/yyyy

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    The task has a deadline of mm/dd/yy – paparazzo May 12 '16 at 16:36
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    If outside the US (and the asker's profile says India) dates in the form mm/dd/yyyy are very likely to be misunderstood and cause possibly disastrous problems. – dave_thompson_085 May 12 '16 at 17:29
  • @dave_thompson_085 I think we can safely expect the English language (including common formats) on english.stackexchange.com. You are either insulting the asker by implying that he cannot figure out the cryptic meaning of mm/dd/yyyy and that he cannot apply it to his situation or for some reason have decided to ignore the "increasing my English knowledge" part of his profile. Should I have put 3/2/2016 instead? In all fairness, your tidbit is correct, just not relevant. – MonkeyZeus May 12 '16 at 18:12

My boss asks me to trick his manager into thinking that we are very busy to avoid getting more work. He would ask me to 'delay' the delivery of the work and provide it to him and his manager 'as late as possible' but by the deadline. I think he is right. 'As late as possible' in this context is perfectly acceptable as the exact opposite as 'as early as possible'.

  • Nice. This goes well with my answer. – Rich May 12 '16 at 22:52
  • Yes, just to avoid overload of work, my manager asked a person to finish the project just before the deadline. Still, "as late as possible" sounds odd to me. That's the reason I posted this as a question. – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan May 13 '16 at 2:27

An informal way to express this would be "Make sure you meet the deadline, but there are no prizes for finishing early" or You don't get a prize if you finish early.


Try eleventh hour

the latest possible time before it is too late

A definition from wikitonary for eleventh hour

A point in time which is almost too late, the last minute

  • I get the meaning of eleventh hour and it fits in the sentence properly. But is it at least closely antonymous to "as early as possible"? – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan May 12 '16 at 8:19
  • @NagarajanShanmuganathan "latest possible time" is the exact opposite of "as early as possible." – vickyace May 12 '16 at 8:20
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    @vickyace I'm not entirely comfortable thinking of those two phrases as exact opposites. As early as possible, and as soon as possible are frequent everyday terms, which are nearly always used to stress the need to get something done quickly. In most contexts the antonym would be to say something like there's no hurry, take your time. Latest possible time is one possible antonym, but not the only one. – WS2 May 12 '16 at 9:18
  • "at the eleventh hour" usually implies that an unexpected event happened at the last possible moment, and changed the situation. That does not match the situation in the OP's question. See the "more example sentences" examples at oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/the-eleventh-hour – alephzero May 12 '16 at 16:31
  • @alephzero "She always turned her term papers in at the eleventh hour" (idioms.thefreedictionary.com/at+the+eleventh+hour). Surely after the first few times, this event is completely expected. In other examples (including two that you pointed to) there is a decision that apparently could have been made earlier, but someone decided to delay making a decision until the deadline. To my ear, the eleventh hour does imply some uncertainty (maybe she will finish late this time), but so does the kind of project planning described by the OP unless your time estimation is very accurate. – David K May 13 '16 at 20:41

Being a fan of "Yes (Prime) Minister"; I'd suggest "In the fullness of time" and "At the appropriate junction"...

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    LOL. But I think you want "juncture" (having to do with a point in time) not "junction" (connection/intersection). Googling confirms this is the phrase used in the show... – Tom Hundt May 13 '16 at 0:08

I'd say the opposite would be "as late as you like" or "as late as you want". More accurately, "as close to the deadline as you like/want". None of these are commonly used, because deadlines are there for a reason, but still, I think the English is sound.


To generate an opposite of "as early as possible", keep the superlative "as possible" part and find an opposing term for "early". Then reword as succinctly as possible.

Result: "With maximal delay"


Not quite what you're asking, but you did say "opposite". In developing situations, you might be very interested in the latest available information; for example, a report about a military or political situation, or a sports match. In this case, you might, in order of decreasing formality, be instructed to be, or to include information which is:

  • as current as possible
  • as up-to-date as possible
  • as hot as you can [get]

Answering your question only strictly, then there is no true opposite, since the phrase you offered, "as early as possible" (or more typically, "as soon as possible", ASAP) demands urgency. Without urgency, there's nothing to specify. So the opposite sense is simply to add "it's not urgent", or "it's not a priority".


The opposite of "as early as possible" is either "as late as possible" or "as early as is necessary" (they both mean the same thing).

It is used, especially in project management.

It means "in enough time to finish by the deadline, but no earlier".

There are lots of reasons to schedule that way:

  • One activity might interrupt another activity - so you don't start the new activity until you have to.

  • You may want to minimise the time between finishing one activity and starting another activity - so you don't start the first activity until you have to.

  • You may be hoping that an activity can be cancelled, or worried that requirements may change - so you don't start the activity until you have to.

In between "as early as possible" and "as late as possible" is "by <date>". As other people have said, that means, "it doesn't matter when you do it, so long as its done by <date>."

But if you say "take as much time as you want", that's quite different. It means "Take enough time to do a good job. This job is too important to rush."


Have it finished by deadline.

Meaning take all the time you want, as long as it meets the deadline.


I think the question a lot of people are grappling with is "why". Most often, this situation arises when the person has higher priority tasks, e.g.

Task B needs doing urgently, whereas you have all the way up to the 32nd of Febtember to complete task A

If the task requires other resources that are better spent elsewhere immediately, the boss could say

Don't worry about task A for now. It'll wait.

Lastly, in giving out the task, the boss might describe it as a "[time] filler", to be done in those moments where it's not possible to do anything else, for example:

I'd like you to do task A - it's only a filler, doesn't need to be submitted until 32nd of Febtember.

[edit] Lastly (I thought I had already seen this elsewhere), but is by far the better option:

Do task A before the 32nd of Febtember - but put it on the back burner.


Well, the opposite is "whenever you get to it," I suppose, but you still have a deadline, so you don't really want that. Saying "as late as possible" is odd because it is unlikely you would be bothered by someone starting earlier than needed. A more natural way to say this is "you can do this anytime between now and Tuesday" (for example).


Timely, not in the archaic sense (early, soon), but happening at the correct, most useful of suitable time, opportunely (Merriam-Webster or Macmillan).


My next try would be "just in time". In production management this means that goods are delivered not to late and not to early. If you deliver to early an the goods must be stored you have to pay a penalty or if you deliver to late and the production has to wait for.

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    One of the earlier answers gave Just in Time, with a link. So, I'm sorry, but this answer seems to me a duplicate. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten May 13 '16 at 18:27
  • @ab2 Truth is not a function of time, nor of priority. – user207421 May 16 '16 at 10:00

It should be Take your time but within the specified time.

The above line gives both freedom as well as the restriction of doing the work by defining a boundary value of within specified time.


I would use the phrase "at the latest" to express that the project may be completed up to and including, but no later than, the specified time.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/at+the+latest

  • This is just another way of specifying a deadline; it doesn't discourage finishing early. – Scott May 16 '16 at 5:09

In Operations Management, the concept "as late as possible" definitely exists. It means postponing, for instance, an acquisition to the last possible moment so as to avoid excessive financial penalties. (In the given context this would likely not apply, however.)


Most of the other answers imply that delay is a good thing. I don't think that is implied by "the opposite of as early as possible". Responding to the question, I would use "not later than", implying that any time before that was equally good, but still imposing the deadline.


"At your earliest convenience."

This lets someone know that something should be done as soon as possible, but only if it does not conflict with that person's higher priority tasks.

It also does this in a professional manner.

However, consider whether this is to be taken literally or taken to mean something more like "within a reasonable professional timeframe".

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    Here in the UK, "at your earliest convenience" is often used to mean "This is very urgent; I want you to do it immediately - right now" (the opposite of what's being asked for in this question). – A E May 13 '16 at 9:32

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