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How Long Does it Take Someone With ADHD to Change a Lightbulb?

Longer than someone without ADHD, apparently.

Researchers from Israel recently asked the question why do people with learning disabilities tend to be late? Their study caught my eye because it’s similar to a question I asked a few months ago, why are people with ADHD always late?

LightbulbThe researchers found a few possible causes for why things often take longer for people with learning disabilities, including executive functioning impairments.

But one beautifully simple finding from the study is that on average, people with learning disabilities took longer to prepare a cup of coffee. Presumably, they also take longer on a variety of other everyday tasks.

Although the study didn’t look specifically at ADHD, the finding about preparing a cup of coffee resonated with me as an ADHDer because I think it speaks to how much trouble those of us with ADHD can have with “simple” everyday things.

In a way, mundane chores like making coffee are purely about organizational and executive skills. There’s no real substance in these activities, and not much that’s intrinsically rewarding. It’s all about planning your actions efficiently and staying on task so you can move on to something better.

And this is partly what makes these things a lot of work for people with ADHD. These activities target exactly the areas people with ADHD struggle with.

So it makes sense if people with ADHD take longer to prepare a cup of coffee. Not only that, I’m going to propose taking the coffee researchers’ findings a step further, because unlike them, I’m not bound by the scientific method – I’m going to hypothesize that people with learning disabilities don’t just take longer on these tasks, they have to work harder too.

This isn’t actually such a radical statement. Generally, if you’re spending more time on something, you’re working harder on it. Which doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a better result – someone who’s preparing coffee for the first time might work harder and spend more time and still end up with an inferior cup of joe compared with someone who’s a seasoned barista.

Having ADHD can be a lot of work because it can mean spending more of your energy on simple daily tasks, stuff that’s more automatic or at least easier for other people. When I tried meds for the first time, one of the things that struck me was how much easier daily life was.

Not because meds solved any of the big questions in my life but because they freed me up from being swamped by the small details of everyday life. Before I tried meds, I was expending so much energy on the “simple” stuff that I was barely getting to the more important stuff!

One of the things you’ll hear from people when they find out they have ADHD is that they always wondered why they have such a hard time with things that are so easy for other people. I think this can be a telltale sign of ADHD – when you have a hard time organizing, planning, and executing, simple things start to get complicated really quickly.

But this aspect of ADHD also gets less frustrating once you recognize if for what it is and realize it doesn’t make you stupid or incompetent as a person in general. There are different ways you can manage it – meds, leaving yourself extra time for things, simplifying your life as much as possible. (Hey, if making a cup of coffee takes so long, maybe you don’t need to drink coffee at all? Hmm, OK, probably a bad example for ADHDers, but switch out “making coffee” for something else and you get my point.)

Regardless of how you manage it, though, my experience is that just knowing it’s a symptom of ADHD can be a big first step toward accepting it and gaining more perspective on how your life is structured and where all your time is going.

What d’you think? Are there “simple” everyday  tasks that seem to take more time or energy for you?

Image: Guglielmo

How Long Does it Take Someone With ADHD to Change a Lightbulb?

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). How Long Does it Take Someone With ADHD to Change a Lightbulb?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Aug 2016
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