yak shaving



  • Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem.
  • A less useful activity done consciously or subconsciously to procrastinate about a larger but more useful task.


  • Coined by Carlin Vieri in his time at the MIT AI Lab (1993–1998) after viewing a segment at the end of a 1991 episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show. The segment featured “Yak Shaving Day,” a Christmas-like Holiday where participants hang diapers instead of stockings, stuff rubber boots with coleslaw, and watch for the shaven yak to float by in his enchanted canoe.

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