go around in circles
go (a)round in circles
To waste one's time and energy engaging in trivial, aimless, or futile activities and failing to make any progress as a result. I tried to get an outline drafted for my thesis, but my ideas were so jumbled in my head that I just kept going round in circles. The committee spent all afternoon trying to come up with a new PR proposal, but they went around in circles the whole time.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
go around in circlesBRITISH, AMERICAN or
go round in circlesBRITISH
If someone goes around in circles or goes round in circles, they achieve little because they repeatedly deal with the same point or problem. This was one of those debates which simply went round in circles. My mind was going around in circles.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
go around in circles, to
To keep trying but get absolutely nowhere. The idea behind this expression dates back to the time when it was first observed that persons who are lost tend to wander in circles and hence cannot ever reach their desired destination. Plato used the term figuratively (Charmides) for an argument that leads nowhere: “You drag me round and round in a circle.” See also run around in circles.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer