Is there a idiomatic phrase that would describe unnecessarily repeating work that has already been done/tried?

Eg., Bob tries to fix a problem, Joe arrives, and tries to fix the problem the exact same way, not knowing that method hadn't worked or had already been tried.

The only idiom close to this meaning that I could think of is "we've already been down that road".

  • A maxim often misattributed to Einstein describes "insanity" as "doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result". – WS2 Jun 12 '18 at 19:30
  • There's a Sisyphean task Merriam Webster named after the mythical chap with the boulder up the mountain. – Nigel J Jun 13 '18 at 3:05

reinvent the wheel TFD

Fig. to make unnecessary or redundant preparations.

Also consider 'been there - done that'


To go around in circles.

to keep doing or talking about the same thing without achieving anything

It doesn't need to be somebody else either. When trying to find something you've lost, you can end up searching the same place multiple times—even though the item wasn't found there on any previous search.

So, somebody could say, "We've been going around in circles. We need to try something different."

You could also say that somebody sounds like—or something feels like—a broken record:

a damaged record that repeats part of a recording over and over again —used figuratively in describing something (such as a statement or experience) that is frequently or tediously repeated

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