What’s that you say? Why would I want to shave a yak? It’s a term I came across and is defined as: “The activity you do that appears important when you are consciously or unconsciously procrastinating about a larger problem.”
How often do you find that the things you resolved at the beginning of the day to be a top priority remain unaccomplished by day’s end? How did that happen? Yak shaving.
Technology, the great boon to my productivity is also my greatest enemy. Before computers my distractions were limited to what was on my desk. Now I have a limitless number of websites to captivate me.
The opposite of yak shaving would seem to be “focus.” For example, when I try to work and listen to a podcast, I find what I’m doing is… listening to a podcast. I don’t think humans can truly focus on more than one thing at a time. But with phones, computers, laptops and tablets all demanding my attention, all shout “Look here! Look here! You might need to know this!”
I’m reminded of the exercise of fitting larger rocks and smaller pebbles into a jar. The rocks are one’s priorities and the pebbles are duties of lesser importance. If one puts the pebbles in first, the rocks won’t fit, but if the rocks go in first the pebbles will fill in the spaces. I spend the day resisting the temptation of all the pebbles pouring out of my devices.
Email is the greatest accessory of the yak shaver. Rather than committing to something I need to get done, I’ll say to myself, “I’ll just give my emails a quick check.” Then three hours go by. Of course, it’s easy to justify when you’re staring at 150 unopened emails.
But yak shaving isn’t without its benefits – turns out there’s another definition: Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem. That’s what makes yak shaving all the more devious – I can convince myself I’m on course when I’m way down a sidetrack.
By the way I came across the term yak shaving while I was… yak shaving.
Serves me right. And firms my resolve to stick with my resolution.
Hmm, I wonder where the concept of “New Year’s Resolutions” comes from? I’ll just look it up…