There’s a term used to describe the spiral of tasks resulting from the commencement of the desired original task—Yak Shaving. It looks like this.
I have my own yak related philosophy—Yak Co-op. It’s evolved over time and works well as an umbrella mantra for being a productive human.
I like to imagine everyone manages a personal co-op of yaks, tied at the hip, following us around, weighing us down. Each yak represents a task, a mental or physical responsibility in life. The hair length and thickness of each yak represents the depth of related sub-tasks.
A co-op is defined by a combination of yak count (less vs more tasks) and yak hair growth (less vs more sub-tasks).
Any task is yak-able and when reduced to essentials can be written as “I [need/want/have] to [actionable task].”
Examples; I need to update my portfolio. I want to learn to code. I have to fix the light bulb. I need to submit my taxes. I want to travel to Europe.
Each task above has sub-tasks that stem from the original task.
Example; To update my portfolio I’ll need to photograph my 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?
The zesty twist to this analogy relates to time. Time is everything. Time can’t be controlled. Completing tasks takes time. Our existence is limited by time, it’s a constant. The importance of time combined with the yak co-op analogy introduces the last influencer—Yak Pedigree.
We’re all super busy, or so we say. But there’s no point being busy if what you’re doing (the yaks you manage) is unfulfilling and inconsequential. Surely managing less yaks (less tasks) with a higher pedigree (more importance) is the sweet spot.
In the case of the portfolio update above, there are numerous pathways the story could take. Instead of assuming a portfolio update is mandatory questions could be asked; 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?
Everyone’s evaluation process is different and is influenced by all manner of variables; life goals, habits, history, advice, perception, intelligence, friends, family. The ah-huh factor is being aware to the quality of yak as well the potential cascading yak dilemmas.
Successful people have a harmonious co-op with balance of pedigree, count and hair growth. They know what’s important, what they can handle and when they should do it. They relish the opportunity to absorb the right new yaks and delegate old ones.
By successful I don’t necessarily mean monetarily. Wealth doesn’t equate to life success. Wealthy people are sometimes more susceptible to having a huge, long-haired, yak co-op. Mo money, mo problems.
What hinders people’s chances to progress is the struggle of either A; Not knowing how to evaluate new yaks, or B; Ignoring existing yaks, letting them build up and evolve into giant hairy beasts that will require a marathon of yak shaving to finish.
For me it’s awareness of the concept that helps me see the indicators before going down a task inception rabbit hole which won’t have real-life benefits. Keep a tight yak co-op, for your health.