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10 Types of Tasks That Can Be Done Inattentively

It’s often said that ADHD isn’t just about inattention. Which is absolutely true.

Head in the CloudsBut referring to inattention with a “just” understates how varied, complex and pervasive the experience of inattention can be. There are many different ways to be inattentive, and many kinds of situations where inattention potentially comes into play.

Consider some of the diverse types of tasks that can be done without really paying attention:

  • Reading: Hopefully what you’re doing right now is an example of attentive reading! But if not, you would be reading through these words, saying them in your head without the meaning sinking in.
  • Conversing: Just like you can read words without absorbing what they actually mean, you can listen to them without processing them. If you’ve ever had a conversation and walked away with no idea what the other person actually said you know what I mean!
  • Listening to speeches, presentations and lectures: This is similar to inattentive conversing, except it’s on a larger scale – you are inattentively listening to a formal presentation, such as a speech or a lecture in school!
  • Relocating objects: It’s not just passive things like listening that can be done inattentively. Anyone who regular utters the phrase “where is my ____ ?” knows the dangers of not being accountable to your attention span for your own actions.
  • Cooking: Did I add the salt yet? Hmm, hard to tell. Wait, why did I turn the stove on already!?
  • Typing: I can assure you that I proofread these posts intensively. You can tell by the fact that only occasionally do completely nonsensical words show up in the middle of sentences.
  • Doing arithmetic: I’m including this one mostly as a shout-out to my school-aged self, who was doomed to forever self-sabotage his math-class grades with inattentive arithmetic mistakes.
  • Driving: Probably the single most dangerous thing that ADHDers regularly do inattentively, for obvious reasons.
  • Checking things: You know what I mean if you’ve ever gone to check your email, check the news headlines, check the time, etc. and then had to go back and immediately check again because you stopped paying attention the first time you checked.
  • Walking: Inattentive walking is usually (but not always!) less dangerous than inattentive driving. Nevertheless, it can result in a violent startle response when a tree branch suddenly materializes ten inches in front of your face.

This is, needless to say, a non-exhaustive list. There are surely plenty of other activities that can be done inattentively, so feel free to share some of your favorite below!

Image: Flickr/Thomas Hawk

10 Types of Tasks That Can Be Done Inattentively

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2019). 10 Types of Tasks That Can Be Done Inattentively. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Dec 2019
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