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Yak Shaving

Adage, Anecdote, Metaphor
Doorway EffectFresh Start Effect
Yak Shaving


The process of performing a series of tasks (often nested inside completing other tasks, like side quests) to accomplish a goal, each of which seems necessary in context but becomes less and less linked to the original goal.


Coined by Carlin Vieri in his time at the MIT AI Lab after viewing a 1991 episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Everyday Use

Household chores are perfect examples of Yak Shaving activities — and far from being a distraction, they can be seen as side quests within side quests that we have to work ourselves out of us as putter through our list. Yes, there's a limit when we are 10 nested layers deep into a task when we are somehow organizing our pen collection because we are trying to get the dishes done, but what's the harm?