Sisyphus & Project Management: 5 Things You Can Do To Avoid Eternal Futile Labour

According to the Greek myth, Sisyphus is condemned to roll a rock up to the top of a mountain, only to have the rock roll back down to the bottom every time he reaches the top. Eternal futile labour levied by the Gods as a hideous punishment.

One of my coaching clients is a project manager with an IT services firm. He has the responsibility to make sure projects are done on time and to the client’s satisfaction.

He loves being a project manager.

It is a great job, but simultaneously it is a Sisyphusian task.

He has tons of responsibilities but no authority over the people he needs to accomplish his work. He is constantly asking people for support and is regularly frustrated.

He feels like he is pushing a rock up a hill.


How Do You Stop Your Work From Rolling Backwards?

  1. Organize your thoughts in writing, so you don’t forget anything:

What is the minimum you need?

What is the most you would like?

What are your key arguments?

What support and resources do you have to offer?

What support and resources do you need?

When will you need progress reports?

When is the deadline?


  1. Have a face-to-face conversation:

Video or telephone is a distant second choice, but never negotiate using email.

Once you have both agreed to something, follow-up in writing with a summary the discussion.


  1. Check Up

If you said, you would check in on progress on Tuesdays at 10…get off your duff and do it.


  1. Ask twice

If things are not going as you expected, follow up in person to find out what is happening.

If they miss the revised deadline, you need to ask again and consider advising your boss

If you have to ask a third time, talk to your Boss to explain what is going sideways and ask for advice and help.


  1. Say Thank you

Be gracious and say thank you. Buy a coffee. Recognize that person’s support. You will never know when you need help re-pushing that rock up the hill.


Sisyphus was condemned to never complete his project.

Luckily you are not he; your job is to get things done.

Its way simpler if you can get people to work together to get the rock to the top of the hill.


If you are interested in going deeper click here to learn about my How Project Management Saved the World workshop.