I'm trying to create some categories to help myself and eventually others to organize tasks, projects, and their life in general.

For example, one category is habits. If done frequently over time habits provide major benefits. E.g. exercise, sleep, reading.

The opposite category would be vices. If done frequently over time vices causes major negative consequences. E.g. angry outburst, junk food, excessive TV watching.

Here comes the problem. One of my categories is somewhat hard to put a label on. So far I have called it Sinks. Sinks are responsibilities, projects and people which provides little to no value for you, and at the same time costs you a lot of time, energy and money.

Examples of sinks

  • "Friends" whom you have grown apart from, but still feel forced to be with.
  • A promise you made to be nice, but now have turned into a long term responsibility which you absolutely hate and really want to be free of.
  • A job which causes you so much stress and misery that the salary seems negligible in comparison.

I hope this gives you a rough idea of what I'm talking about.

Sooo... What do you think? Is the word sink appropriate, or is there an even better word out there? I'd love to hear your opinion.

  • 2
    Sounds like a figurative meaning, by analogy to "heat sink". It will be understood. Engineers will probably appreciate the analogy. Similar analogies: "black hole", "emotional vampire".
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:38
  • The word you are looking for is "drain".
    – moonstar
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 6:39
  • Whether it's a "proper" use of the term or not, it's commonly used in that sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 12:13

3 Answers 3


Words like burden, drain, and obligation come to mind.

In the natural sciences, a "sink" is often used to refer something that can absorb large/unlimited quantities of a particular thing. An additional implication is that the sink remains unchanged by the process. A heatsink is the standard example. In this case you are referring to a "time sink." I think this is appropriate, but perhaps not ideal. My criteria for referring to something as a sink are:

1) Large or unlimited capacity
2) Lack of appreciable change or benefit

Sink, noun
a device or place for disposing of energy within a system, as a power-consuming device in an electrical circuit or a condenser in a steam engine.

  • Interesting thoughts and good word suggestions. It's always nice to have a couple of extra words to describe something :)
    – MartinJH
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:26
  • Yeah, "drain" is probably more idiomatic than "sink", as in "a major drain on resources".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:54

No. "Sink", as in "time sink" etc. means destination, and in particular, a final destination. "Sink" is contrasted with "source". A source is the origin of some data or material. A sink is where stuff ends up.

Think of a dataflow diagram: A source has no inputs and a sink has no outputs.

In UNIX, GNU/Linux etc. lingo, /dev/null is a sink: it receives data and does nothing with it (disposes of it).


In economics terms, a "sunk cost" refers to money that has been spent that usually has not reaped the rewards it should have, but any attempt to make the investment "pay itself back" will merely tend to exacerbate the problem...hence the old saying about "throwing good money after bad." From this example, it is not too much of a stretch to see how a "sink" could be the project or person that started the whole downhill slide into the "sink hole."

In my circle, however, we prefer to use the term "vampires" ... any project or person that will not cease draining every bit of life from you, and won't stop until it leaves you haggard, despondent, and ruing the day you were born.

  • Welcome to ELU. Can you provide sources substantiating your claim? Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 7:28

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