Yak Shaving


Yak Shaving refers to a series of tasks that need to be completed before a more important task can be undertaken. The term is often used in tech and programming to depict the oddly indirect tasks that often precede problem-solving. The name comes from the humorous and seemingly irrelevant nature these smaller tasks may appear to have in relation to the overall goal.


/ˈjak ˈʃeɪvɪŋ/

Key Takeaways

Sure, here are the main takeaways about Yak Shaving:“`html

  1. Yak Shaving refers to a set of tasks that seem irrelevant to the objective at hand, but needs to be done to achieve the goal. They appear to be taking you farther from your project, but in essence, they are crucial, necessary endeavors.
  2. It can sometimes result in procrastination. Because yak shaving tasks can sometimes lead us in different directions, it has the potential to cause us to procrastinate on the main task at hand. Hence, it is essential to keep our main goal in sight and keep such diversions to the minimum.
  3. Despite its potential drawbacks, yak shaving is not always bad. It can lead to a deeper understanding of the systems you are working with and can sometimes result in finding a better solution to the problem you are trying to solve.



Yak Shaving is an important concept in technology due to its relevance to problem-solving and task management. The term is used to describe a series of tasks that need to be completed prior to achieving a primary, larger goal. It highlights an intricate procedure where solving smaller problems is critical to address the larger issue. The concept underlines the interconnectedness of tasks within a project, regardless of how seemingly irrelevant they may be towards the main objective. It also emphasizes the necessity for detailed planning, troubleshooting, and ability to foresee potential challenges in complex tasks or projects. Understanding Yak Shaving can enhance efficiency, as it can make one better prepared to deal with unexpected contingencies and manage their time effectively.


Yak Shaving is a significant term in the tech ecosystem, particularly used in software development and debugging practices. Essentially, it refers to a series of seemingly unrelated tasks that need to be completed before achieving one’s primary goal. The purpose of Yak Shaving is to map out every tiny step that could potentially become a roadblock in the development process, thereby preemptively addressing each small but crucial task to ensure a smooth workflow. This method allows developers to solve problems before they become larger, graver issues, circumventing unnecessary interruptions and fostering productivity.Moreover, Yak Shaving helps to avert the domino effect where a minor issue might lead to a ripple effect of bigger problems. While it might seem like these tasks are a diversion from the main objective, their resolution is actually paramount to achieving the end goal efficiently. Yak Shaving can also serve as an effective risk identification and mitigation tool, thereby increasing the overall success rate of projects. At its core, Yak Shaving is about meticulous planning and proactive problem-solving for a smooth and efficient development process. It reminds individuals or teams not to ignore the small yet essential tasks that contribute to achieving the larger goal.


“Yak Shaving” is a term used in the tech world to describe a situation where you find yourself doing a series of small tasks that are necessary to complete before you can do the task you set out to do. Here are three real-world examples of yak shaving:1. Software Development: Suppose you have to fix a bug in a project’s code. But before doing that, you should upgrade the tester tool that checks for such bugs. To do this upgrade, you have to update your operating system. In turn, before updating your OS, you need to back up your data to prevent data loss in case something goes wrong during the update. Here, backing up your data, and updating your OS are yak shaving tasks.2. Writing a Report: Imagine you’re trying to write a report for your boss. To do this, you need to analyze data from an Excel sheet, but it’s not opening properly. So you update your Excel application. However, the update won’t install because your hard drive is full, so you have to clean out old files. Clearing space on your hard drive and updating Excel are the yak shaving tasks.3. Planning a Presentation: Let’s say you’re preparing for a PowerPoint presentation. You want to present it on a large screen, but you find that the HDMI cable is broken. So, you must first go to the store to buy a new cable. On your way to the store, you find your car out of fuel, and so you have to find a gas station. Filling up the gas tank, driving to the store, and buying a new HDMI cable are the yak shaving tasks before your big task of making the presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is Yak Shaving in terms of technology?A: Yak Shaving refers to a programming term that means a series of tasks that need to be completed before a final goal can be achieved. It involves doing seemingly unrelated tasks that are necessary to make progress on a larger project.Q: Where does the term “Yak Shaving” originate?A: The term “Yak Shaving” is believed to have been coined at MIT. It was inspired by an episode of “Ren & Stimpy” – a 90’s cartoon series. Q: Can you give an example of Yak Shaving?A: Sure. Suppose you need to fix a bug in your software, but first you need to update the test script, which requires learning a new testing framework. Studying the new framework leads to fixing issues in your development environment. These preliminary steps are the “yak shaving”.Q: Why is it called Yak Shaving? A: The term is a metaphor for the seemingly bizarre chain of tasks one can end up performing when trying to complete a larger task. Just like how shaving a yak has nothing to do with the final goal, these tasks seem unrelated but are necessary to achieve the end goal.Q: Is Yak Shaving considered a productive activity?A: It can be both productive and unproductive. While yak shaving can lead to a better understanding of the tools and systems involved in a project, it can also distract one from the main task at hand and can be time-consuming.Q: How can I minimize Yak Shaving in my projects?A: You can reduce yak shaving by having thorough and clear project plans, using proven tools and technologies to avoid unneeded complications, and maintaining focus on your ultimate goals and deliverables. Regular breaks can also help you reassess your strategies and stay on track.Q: Are there any tools designed to help with Yak Shaving?A: Yes. Project management tools, like Asana or Trello, are designed to help keep tasks organized and prioritized. These can help to minimize the distractions that lead to Yak Shaving.

Related Tech Terms

  • Programming Paradigms
  • Preemptive Debugging
  • Software Development
  • Task Automation
  • Dependency Management

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