I am wondering, in these strange times, if there is a word that describes questioning if the work/project/tasks at hand are actually pointless?

An example: I am creating a document meant as a resource for an event that will most likely be canceled, but it might not be. If it is canceled, it will be moot. But my directive is to create it anyway so I am existing in a state of doubt about its usefulness.

Used in a sentence: As I opened my computer I felt myself sink deeper into "(state of wondering if this was pointless).

Is there a word for this? I keep going back "existential crisis" (What is the point of everything?) but I want to express the concept on a smaller scale. Thanks!

  • Perhaps uncertainty. "The uncertainty about the usefulness of my work." Apr 1, 2020 at 16:45
  • 'Existential crisis' has fewer syllables than some words. Apr 1, 2020 at 16:47
  • 1
    Is it ennui you feel? Apr 1, 2020 at 17:10
  • Although my example uses a singular person (me) and task, I am wondering about this concept, and a word for it, because I know so many people have the burden of acting as if what they are doing will matter, with the knowledge that it might not, because of the social distancing/stay at homes rules around the world. Perhaps this gives some context for the concept?
    – Mcymac
    Apr 1, 2020 at 17:36
  • Uncertainty is close, but lacks the nuance I'm looking for. @WeatherVane
    – Mcymac
    Apr 1, 2020 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


I suggest:

The futility of completing these tasks.

Lexico gives


Pointlessness or uselessness.

Merriam-Webster has

futility noun
2 : a useless act or gesture

Thucydides describes the futility of any human response: Appeals to the gods and the work of doctors – who died in droves – were equally useless.


Meaninglessness is probably a good fit. The "preacher" in the book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1, in the Tanakh, said numerous times "Meaningless! Meaningless!" Older versions read "Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity." The first 11 verses capture your feeling quite well, I think.

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.

6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

Then again, perhaps you have a mild case of nihilism, which is defined, partially, as "the doctrine that existence or values are meaningless." You have the feeling that your efforts are in vain and pointless.

Some other words, which are somewhat synonymous with nihilistic or meaningless are:










lacking confidence


having reservations

in doubt



“...a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life.”


Apparently it was a problem for monks. The Wikipedia article includes some observations by Aquinas and a link to an article on The Benedictine Rule, which provides advice for the managers of monks.

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