Sisyphean Tasks: What Is it and How Can You Avoid it in Your Organization?
Do you find yourself performing the same tasks repeatedly and reaching a plateau in your productivity and self-improvement? If yes, you share the same predicament as Sisyphus, the deceitful and ruthless King of Corinth.
The myth of Sisyphus depicts the human nature of working tirelessly day in day out, yet not making any progress at work and in life. At one point or another, we have all been entangled in a Sisyphean loop, doing something with nothing to show for it.
In this post, we take a look at what Sisyphean task is, how it applies to the modern work environment, and how we can overcome it.
What Is a Sisyphean Task?
If you haven’t heard about Sisyphus, he was a cruel Greek King who got punished for his crafty and nefarious behavior. The poor guy, who treated some of the gods disrespectfully, was punished by Zeus, the king of Greek gods.
He was doomed to push a large rock up a steep hill.
Every time Sisyphus neared the top, the rock would roll back to the bottom of the hill. Relentless, he would roll it back to the top, only to see it tumbling down again. Sisyphus’s proud and sadistic nature didn’t allow him to change his approach or think out of the box. He failed to realize that gravity will always force the rock downhill, and he was stuck in a loop of getting that rock atop the hill, despite failing every single time.
Zeus condemned Sisyphus to repeat this tedious task for eternity, and since he was under a spell, he could not come out of it. The legend of Sisyphus’ condemnation, which entails repeating a task that is both laborious and futile, is known as a Sisyphean task.
Many people find themselves in this predicament at their workplaces. You may be struggling to perform tasks that you think are impossible. Like Sisyphus, you are invested in the thought that only you can solve the puzzles of your situation.
However, maybe if you looked at your state of affairs from a different perspective, you might start viewing your Sisyphean task as an obstacle instead of an impossibility. Perhaps, you could simply ask for help.
Unlike Sisyphus, you’re not enslaved to eternal punishment. You have workmates, family, and friends with whom you can share your concerns and get a workable resolution.
Sisyphean Task Examples
There are many examples of Sisyphean tasks in our modern-day society. Here are a few of them:
- The Coronavirus Pandemic. Like Sisyphus, governments have been struggling to get rid of the highly infectious COVID-19 virus. Since social distancing was deemed to be an effective containment method, many governments implemented lockdowns, and it worked. After a while, the infections dwindled, and lockdowns were lifted. Not long after people started to mingle again, coronavirus was reintroduced to the population, calling for another lockdown. This has been going on for a while now, especially in developing countries, and it’s evidently a Sisyphean task.
- Trying to tidy up your yard after mowing can be a Sisyphean task if your kids or dogs keep playing in the grass.
- Other examples of Sisyphean tasks include farm work, parenting, and accounting.
How to Overcome the Curse of Sisyphean Tasks
Make Tasks More Challenging
How often do you review the many tasks that your employees need to take care of on a daily basis? This may be one of the reasons they feel like Sisyphus. Repeating the same tasks on a day-to-day basis can be mind-numbing. If left unchecked, even your most active and productive employees can lose morale.
Instead of giving them a never-ending cycle of everyday tasks, come up with challenging and interesting tasks. It doesn’t have to be something complicated. A simple variation in how they accomplish tasks can change boring tasks into something exciting.
You could also introduce shifts that allow some employees to work during the first half of the day while others report to work in the afternoons. Alternatively, you can allow workers to interchange their work schedules so that they report four days a week instead of the entire week.
Invest in Team Development
Another way to avoid Sisyphean tasks in an organization is to implement programs to help your teams to grow, professionally and personally. You can enroll them in specific courses that will help develop their skills further.
When employees feel appreciated and a part of the company, they will have a deeper drive to surpass expectations. The learned skills will not only help them prosper at the workplace but also instill trust and loyalty.
Manage Time More Efficiently
In most cases, we are our own worst enemies, giving in to time wasters and ending up postponing work to the next day. While we can all agree we don’t have complete control of our environment, you can always choose to do one thing instead of another.
For example, when scheduling your day, you can prioritize urgent or important tasks so that you deal with them first thing in the morning. This method is called Eat the Frog. This simple yet effective productivity technique for people who are:
- struggling with procrastination,
- having trouble deciding what tasks to tackle at any given time,
- getting a lot of work done but aren’t making any progress on important tasks,
- and are overwhelmed by their long to-do lists.
To overcome this quagmire, implement the Eat the Frog method. It requires that you identify one important task and do it first to completion. Only then can you move to the next task. Most people may feel like this method will drag their feet, but trying to multitask will only derail your productivity.
This technique will help you identify the time of day when your energy, focus, and willpower are at their peak levels. In turn, you can schedule to work on your most mentally taxing assignments during your best hours. You can resort to checking and returning phones and emails when your brain feels exhausted and when your focus goes downhill.
Use a to-do list so that you can cross a task off your checklist after accomplishing it. This allows you to see your progress and could motivate you to move on to the next task. If you have a big project, break it down into small chunks so that it doesn’t appear too complex to accomplish.
A proven tactic to help keep your employees productive is to use a time management tool. These tools come with a set of handy features to help you keep track of time, spot loopholes in your workflow, and streamline employee collaboration.
It makes it easier to manage remote teams, monitor their performance, and ensure company time is well utilized. A reliable time management system helps you to stay on top of things, allowing you to note who is and isn’t struggling with their tasks.
It’s essential to set goals earlier on when starting a project so that teams know what exactly you want them to be working on. Start by analyzing your team’s capacity to execute tasks. When you outline key goals, you’ll be able to decide who should be working on what.
Goals will also help you set boundaries to prevent teams from falling into the Sisyphean loop of repeating tasks.
Encourage Open Communication
Time and project management are some of the key factors that can help boost your teams’ productivity and efficiency. However, without open communication, it will be difficult to learn about the challenges your team members face. This might lead to cracks when collaborating on projects.
To ensure effectiveness at work, constant communication is paramount. Try to hold regular virtual meetings to get to know your remote workers better. If you notice one of your employees is underperforming, organize for a one-on-one chat to try and get to the root of the problem, and hopefully, resolve it. The most important thing is to let your workers know and feel they can approach you at any time with urgent concerns that may arise.
Moreover, try to facilitate ways for teams to communicate casually with each other to encourage socialization. While they may not interact as they would in a physical office, online collaboration and videoconferencing tools are great substitutes.
Set aside a virtual happy hour, get them to participate in online yoga or cardio classes, or engage in online games as a team. These are some of the team-building efforts that can help your remote workers bond and develop stellar working relationships.
Understand Your Team’s Situation
Working from home is not for everyone, and some of your employees may be struggling to strike a work-life balance. An individual may be faced with a family situation that impacts their performance and productivity at work. Others have kids who may storm into the room in the middle of a virtual meeting, disrupting an ongoing video conference.
Sometimes, it’s good to give an employee the benefit of doubt by offering to listen if they need to talk. A task might be too complicated to tackle at certain hours of the day due to distractions. By understanding an employee’s situation, you can stretch the deadline or ask them to give you a workable timeline.
Incentivize Your Team
Employees work best and harder when you give them a reason to do so. Incentives can come in various forms, including cash, paid vacations, or extra time off. Such tactics will push them to put in more effort knowing something great will come out of it in the end.
Most companies that implement incentive programs to keep their teams motivated record higher productivity and increased profits.
Set Up a Feedback System
An employee may not know how inefficient he/she is at the workplace without a proper feedback process. It’s only by pointing out their weaknesses and strengths that they can know where they need to change.
Giving feedback will also expose areas of potential opportunities that they would, otherwise, not be aware of. Implementing a feedback mechanism in an organization can help you and your teams identify Sisyphean tasks and work on ways to eliminate them together.
A feedback system also gives employees a chance to share the issues affecting them. Moreover, it can be an opportunity to discuss how the management to transform or implement.
How to Eliminate Sisyphean Tasks with Traqq
Traqq simplifies the process of managing your local or remote teams and streamlining workflows. Its automated tracking and activity monitoring ensure that employee working hours are accurately recorded. Management can then share these stats with clients to ensure transparency and accountability.
The records can also be used to analyze an employee’s performance and process their payment. By tracking time, you can check how company time is spent and what apps or websites are frequently accessed. This gives you clear insights into how focused your teams really are. Plus, you can tell who works the most during specific hours and use the details to reschedule your team’s workflow.
When assigning tasks, the detailed stats and timesheets will help you distribute work fairly since you can see their progress on the charts. It then becomes easy to optimize the team’s performance without overworking specific employees.
Traqq’s time clock feature works online and offline, syncing data as soon as you get back online. It also features smart alerts that remind you to turn on the tracker when activity is detected, and the timer isn’t running, and vice versa.
Traqq is also an employee monitoring software that lets you check individual, as well as, team progress. The insight helps you identify underperforming individuals and implement ways to help boost their productivity. It’s especially effective for teams working remotely since you can tell who is overloaded and who is ready to take on a new task.