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Time Down the Drain

Ever have certain things take way longer than you expected? If you have ADHD, I’ll assume the answer is probably yes.

Showering is one of those things for me. When I get out of the shower and look at the clock, I’m sometimes at a total loss to figure out how splashing some soap over my body and rinsing it off could add up to take so much time.

ShowerAfter putting some thought into it, I’ve identified two factors that seem to be involved in dragging my showers out beyond all reason:

  • Getting lost in thoughts: I’ve come to realize that a lot of time I spend in the shower is spent not actually showering but just standing there following some train of thought.
  • Repeating actions: Did I wash my hair yet? Can’t remember. Better wash it (again) just in case.

These are examples of autopilot, where some action becomes so automatic that you stop paying attention as you do it. Here, that means paying so little attention that you lose track of where you are in the task at hand, or stop doing it altogether.

The ultimate result? Time down the drain, more or less literally.

As much as showering is a worthy topic, this post isn’t just about showering. The same kind of pattern can play itself out in many different tasks, with time slipping away in surprising and sometimes incomprehensible ways.

Pretty much any task that can activate ADHD autopilot is a candidate.

Washing the dishes? Just like with showering, it’s the perfect time to get dragged off by your stream of consciousness, or to find yourself unthinkingly repeating the same action over and over again.

Reading is a task that isn’t automatic but that, at least for me, can make time disappear in strange, inattentive ways. I think this happens because reading puts me in a state of mind where I easily wander off into my own thoughts, and because I often find myself having to reread things multiple times.

Those are the same factors that stretch my showers to inexplicable lengths, and in the case of reading they mean that I can take a ridiculously long time to read something relatively short.

I’ve come to accept that occasionally having routine tasks take five times as long as you expected is just part of life with ADHD, or my life with ADHD anyway. Showering, washing the dishes, and reading almost certainly aren’t the only tasks where ADHDers can see the passage of time get seriously out of hand, so if you can think of some other good examples, feel free to share them below!

Image: Flickr/Indiana Stan

Time Down the Drain

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. (2020). Time Down the Drain. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Feb 2020
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