Yak Shaving is the term used to describe the spiral of tasks resulting from the commencement of the desired original task. It kinda looks like this and was apparently inspired by a Ren and Stimpy episode!
Yaks are awesome, long live Yaks.
Going a step further, I see yak shaving as an umbrella mantra for being a good productive human. We all have a herd of yaks, weighing us down to varying degrees. Yaks are life-tasks with the thickness of coat symbolising the potential depth of related sub-tasks.
A task looks like this;
“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.