Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

The Chains of Habit and How to Break Them

I have only recently admitted to myself, that the long chain of broken promises, unfinished projects and disappointments are a direct result of my ongoing love affair with procrastination. Indeed, when the reality of it was made painfully obvious to me, I became physically ill and began shaking and weeping uncontrollably.

You may wonder why I took so long to see what was obvious to others. Procrastination is an addiction that is just as deceptive as the alcoholic. As one who has battled this affliction for 44 years, I can honestly say, as Dr. Samuel Johnson so eloquently stated, "the chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken".

But I am discovering, (as many of you have also discovered), that my daily single acts of "action" are like small strikes of an axe across the base of a mighty Redwood or Oak tree. One strike may mean nothing to this behemoth habit of procrastination, but the daily striking at the roots, even though they seem insignificant, eventually topple the biggest tree. I have begun my own unique approach to swinging my daily axe. I am sure many of you have already discovered what I am about to say, but it is making a big difference in my life already.

The first thing I do of course is to list my priorities, but I do this as Steven Covey would say, according to my "Roles". For instance, as a father, one of my priorities is to speak with all of my grown children at least 5 minutes weekly, since they all live in other states. As a husband, I may want to date my wife weekly. As an employee, I may have a goal of making one additional sales call a day or arriving on time at the office at least twice a week.

We all have different roles in our lives. If you are a woman, you may have the roles of daughter, mother, wife, sister, in addition to the roles you have in the secular world of employee, board member, soccer mom driver, and so on. If you are a man, you have the corollary roles of son, father, husband, brother, employee, deacon, coach, etc. In EACH of these roles, you have the opportunity to take several strikes with your axe daily. My daily priority list or "to do" list looks like this:


Son            Call Mom and wish her Happy birthday (84 years!)
Husband:    Meet Mimie at Olive Garden at 6:30 on Tuesday for date.
Brother:      Call and tell Greg I'll be over to help with clearing brush Saturday

        for  2 hours
Father:        Tell Isaac what a great job he did in his magazine article.
Employee:   Arrive at office early twice this week.

There are many more roles, but if you are functioning at an even weaker level due to the extreme nature of your PA, then your roles could take on the name of your task such as "laundry washer", bed maker, meal cooker, husband, (even lover...let's face it, when you are held in the grip of procrastination, even sex can be put off). When you look at tasks in light of your roles, you also have the opportunity to be SUCCESSFUL in one or many of these single task roles.


Look at the tasks you are going to take on today. Isn’t it easy to see where these tasks fall in relation to the roles you play in your life? If you have an item on your list that reads, “Finish project at work” it naturally falls under your role as an employee. This helps me because it makes life “bite sized”.


A second tool I have begun using is the “5 minute game”. It works on the principle that if I can engage myself for 5 minutes in something I avoid, then I am more likely to continue doing it well past 5 minutes. This forum post is my 5 minute game for today and I have already spent 30 minutes writing in between doing some other rather important things like getting my wife ready and out the door for work.


Pick something, anything, that you don’t want to do, and tell yourself, you will do it for 5 minutes. Say the kitchen is a mess. Well, who wants to clean an entire kitchen? Not me. But if I say, “I am going to clean for 5 minutes” then I am a winner because I know I can do something for 5 minutes. Like I said, it works for me. Everyone is different, but I think these are tactics, strategies that can make a world of difference.


Start breaking the chains today…. Like Goethe, “boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”


Having just awakened,



Revisiting "roles" -- one year later

It's been over a year since Doug first made discussed "roles" in this "Chains of Habit and How to Break Them" post.

I still find "roles" to be a very powerful concept.

I've really been working on trying to acheive balance with all of the roles in my life.

I'm especially trying to figure out how to balance my simultaneous participation in more than one 12-Step Program.

I now understand that I can choose to eliminate some roles from my life -- such as "constant rescuer of others", or other seemingly-helpful-but-not-truly-helpful roles.

I think there are ways of prioritizing tasks and roles.

I need to ask Higher Power's guidance.

My most important discovery: During some days or weeks, I need to focus on some roles more than other roles. This is okay, as long as I balance all appropriate roles over the long term.

Today's focus will be on my role as "tax-payer".

-- movingalong

thanks to Doug re: "Roles"

Thank you for your post!   I have been seeking balance.  This idea of "roles" is a marvelous approach!

--  movingalong

Pay it forward

You're welcome moving, I'm just paying forward what someone did for me. I'm glad it's working for you.


the role of roles

Thanks, Douglas, you have given me great insight into why my behavior can be so debillitating. I often will focus on only one or two roles and put off the other ones getting myself in hot water in the process. As my children, my spouse, my boss, my family, my friends, my plants, my house and myself all need to be nurtured, it helps me to see that this is a great way to keep my commitments. If I don't water that plants (or tend to any of the other roles) I will no longer have a job, or a spouse, or children who feel loved, or living plants, or a house that the Board of Health won't shut down.)

Excellent piece

Thank you very much or sharing that Douglas. It's very motivating and is forcing me to think about my day today. 

I'm going to do that 5 minute game with my taxes:
- Organize my 2005 (yes, I know.. late.. very late) tax papers for my accountant for 5 minutes. 
I hope you're on your path to knocking down that tree.