‘Yak shaving’ or ‘shaving the yak’ is a term used to describe the spiral of sub-tasks resulting from the commencement of a well intentioned original task. Basically this.
I love it as a concept for tasks however beyond this I see yak shaving as an umbrella mantra for generally being a good productive human™, in this, we all have a metaphorical herd of yaks, weighing us down to varying degrees. Our yaks are current life-tasks or ones we might be starting soon, the thickness of each respective yak’s coat symbolises the depth of related sub-tasks.
Any life-task can be boiled down to this structure;
“I [need/want/have] to [do something].”
Examples; I need to update my portfolio. I want to buy property. I want to make an iPhone app. I need to procure high quality underwear.
The perception of simplicity is what makes them oh-so yak worthy, with a flurry of hairy sub-tasks waiting to happen;
To update my portfolio I’ll need to photograph recent work. To photograph recent work I’ll have gather favourite projects. Of my favourite projects I’ll need to track down printed pieces and assets files. In order to find the files I’ll need get my back-up hard-drive. The hard-drive is in storage so I’ll have to drive out and get it. Queue yak shaving montage.
FFS why is this at all relevant or interesting?
I’m fascinated by productivity and it’s relation to time. Doing things requires time, therefore the choice of yak’s to spend time on becomes intriguingly critical.
You don’t want to be shaving the wrong yak.
Surely managing a small herd of yaks (tasks) of a higher pedigree (more inherent importance) is the goal. Less noise, more signal.
Instead of assuming a portfolio update is mandatory, further thinking may have made it a redundant desire; Will a portfolio update get me where I want to be? Where do I actually want to be? Can it be done in a newer, niftier, modern way? Can I delegate some tasks?
I believe successful* people have a harmonious connection with their herd. They know what’s important, what they can handle and when they should do it. They relish the opportunity to absorb the right yaks while delegating or retiring old ones.
*Successful doesn’t necessarily mean monetarily. Wealth != success. Mo money, mo problems yo.
Being aware and able to identify potential impacts of daily decisions is a nifty and novel idea. For your health.