While to-do lists and planners can help us stay on track at work, we may be better off without them when it comes to making weekend plans. Scheduling leisure activities could have a negative effect on how much we enjoy them, according to new research conducted by Washington University in St. Louis to be published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
Researchers compiled the results from 13 studies, and found that assigning a specific date and time for leisure can make it feel more like a chore. In fact, once an activity is scheduled, anticipation and enjoyment decrease.
“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,” Gabriela Tonietto, one of the study’s researchers, said in a statement.
People who enjoy structure (or frequently make plans with those who do), don't have to forgo planning altogether. Instead, work to find a happy medium and add some spontaneity, such as scheduling an activity for a specific day but keeping the time flexible.
“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,” said Tonietto. “By reducing the structure of the plans, this rough scheduling does not lead leisure to feel more work-like and thus does not reduce enjoyment.”