Procrastination gets a bad rap. It shouldn't. If you learn how to properly hone your procrastination skills, you can actually get a lot more done and be more productive.

Sound counterintuitive? Leadership consultant Rory Vaden will convince you otherwise. He says everything we know about time-management is wrong. Even though we have more time-management tips, tricks, hacks, calendar apps, and tools than ever, we still can't seem to get a handle on our to-do lists.

Flipping the script on your to-do list.

On the TEDx Douglasville stage a few years ago, Vaden preached the gospel of procrastination and racked up 2.5 million views. TED recently resurrected his talk on its blog

Here's how most of us do it now: Make a list. Prioritize the most important things at the top. Work your way through your to-do's according to urgency and importance, crossing off items as you go.

The question we ask ourselves to prioritize items is what's the most important thing we need to do today. Vaden says that's the wrong question. Instead, we should ask ourselves: What can I do today that will make tomorrow better?

When you sit down to write your to-do list, Vaden gives you full permission to focus on the things that will free up your time tomorrow. He offers four questions to ruthlessly prioritize.

1. Is this task even worth doing?

Can you eliminate the task or just ignore it? "Time management has just as much to do with what you don't do as what you do do," Vaden says. Saying no to something that's not absolutely necessary will create more time in the future. Because every time you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else.

In sum: Just say no.

2. Can this task be automated?

Anything you automate or set up a process for today will free up more time. Set it and forget it. And get more of your time back.

Are there items you purchase frequently, like pet food or household supplies? Set up auto-ship orders. Sure, it will take some time to figure out what the right cadence is and how frequently you need toilet paper and toothpaste. But the time invested in setting up that shipment will save you from having to rush to the store when you run out.

3. Can this task be delegated? Can I buy my own time back?

Teach someone else how to do the task. Or pay them to do it. Barbara Corcoran is a master delegator of her email inbox. She used to get 800 emails a day, but got it down to a few by delegating to her assistants.

Happiness researchers agree that outsourcing is an excellent way to spend your money. One study offered participants money to either buy a material possession or to put money toward paying someone else to complete a time-saving task. The people who put money towards freeing up their time reported higher happiness levels at the end of the study.

From doing your grocery shopping to assembling IKEA furniture, there are plenty of apps and services you can use to outsource your time.

4. Can this wait until later?

If you can't ignore the task, automate it, or delegate it, you'll have to do it yourself. If you have to do it now, then do it now. Give it your full concentration and get it done.

But if it can wait, then embrace procrastination. Let it wait. Vaden calls this "procrastination on purpose." He makes an important distinction. You're not putting off something really important just because you don't feel like it. You're putting it off because you have intentionally decided now is not the right time. ​

Published on: Feb 4, 2019