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Yak Shaving

Definition of Yak Shaving

Yak shaving refers to the seemingly endless series of tasks that one must perform before they can achieve the actual goal they set out to accomplish. These tasks may not directly contribute to the desired outcome but are necessary nonetheless. The term "Yak shaving" derives from an episode of the TV show "Ren & Stimpy," where Ren is caught in a cycle of increasingly absurd tasks, culminating in shaving a yak.

Origin of Yak Shaving

The concept of Yak shaving originated from the programming community, where it describes the experience of programmers getting sidetracked by minor tasks while working on a larger project. Over time, the term has expanded beyond programming to encompass any situation where people find themselves mired in secondary tasks that divert their attention from the primary objective.

Practical Application of Yak Shaving

One practical application of Yak shaving can be seen in project management. When working on complex projects, it's common for team members to encounter unexpected obstacles or dependencies that require attention before progress can continue. By recognizing and addressing these "Yak shaving" tasks promptly, teams can ensure smoother project execution and minimize delays.

Benefits of Yak Shaving

While Yak shaving may seem like a distraction, it serves several important purposes:

Efficiency: By addressing potential roadblocks early on, Yak shaving prevents larger issues from derailing progress later in the project timeline.

Quality: Tackling Yak shaving tasks allows for a more thorough understanding of the project's intricacies, leading to better-informed decisions and higher-quality outcomes.

Risk Mitigation: Identifying and resolving dependencies or bottlenecks early helps mitigate risks and prevents potential project failures.

Team Collaboration: Yak shaving encourages open communication and collaboration within teams, as members work together to address obstacles and keep the project on track.


If you find yourself caught in a cycle of Yak shaving, take a step back and reassess your priorities. Focus on the core objectives of your project and delegate or postpone tasks that are not essential to achieving those goals.

To distinguish between necessary tasks and Yak shaving, ask yourself whether the task directly contributes to the primary objective of your project. If the answer is no, it may be a Yak shaving task that can be deprioritized or delegated.

While Yak shaving can be frustrating and time-consuming, it's not always a bad thing. Addressing minor tasks preemptively can prevent larger issues down the line and ultimately contribute to the success of a project.


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