Why You Shouldn't 'Schedule' Fun


Ever notice that when you parcel out portions of your week for “fun,” you’re less likely to enjoy these periods of free time? You’re not imagining things. According to Real Simple, new research suggests that scheduling leisure activities in advance—going to the park, meeting a friend for drinks, etc.—actually detracts from their pleasure.

Gabriela Tonietto, a doctoral candidate in marketing at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, and Selin Malkoc, the school's associate professor of marketing, conducted multiple studies to gauge how assigning times and dates to relaxing pursuits changes how we experience them. In one of these studies, researchers offered free cookies and coffee to students studying for exams, AskMen writes. Some were told to pick up the goodies any time between 6 and 8 p.m., while others had to show up at a certain time to receive the complementary treats. Guess what? The students who had to “plan” their snack break in advance enjoyed it less.

The full results, which are forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research, suggest that we look forward to—and appreciate—spontaneous activities far more than penciled-in pastimes. "Looking at a variety of different leisure activities, we consistently find that scheduling can make these otherwise fun tasks feel more like work and decrease how much we enjoy them," Tonietto said in a statement.

Can’t leave your planner at the office on weekends? Tonietto and Malko recommend finding a happy medium. Designate leisure activities for certain days, but don’t assign them a specific time. That way, they will feel more serendipitous and not like a pre-assigned chore.

"We find that the detriment of scheduling leisure stems from how structured that time feels," Tonietto said. "While we may tend to think of scheduling in structured terms by referring to specific times—such as grabbing coffee at 3 p.m.—we can also schedule our time in a rougher manner by referring less specifically to time—grabbing coffee in the afternoon.”

Want to learn more? Watch the above interview with Tonietto, courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis. 

[h/t Real Simple]