Think About This the Next Time You Plan a Golf Outing. Or Maybe, Not.

Think about this the next time you plan a golf date.

Scheduling it makes it less fun. 

According to a new study, scheduling leisure time takes all the fun out of it.  Planning events makes them seem like work, reports.

In a series of studies, researchers found that scheduling a leisure activity like seeing a movie or taking a coffee break led people to anticipate less enjoyment and actually enjoy the event less than if the same activities were unplanned.

That doesn’t mean you can’t plan at all: The research showed that roughly planning an event (but not giving a specific time) led to similar levels of enjoyment as unplanned events.

“People associate schedules with work. We want our leisure time to be free-flowing,” says Selin Malkoc, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. “Time is supposed to fly when you’re having fun. Anything that limits and constrains our leisure chips away at the enjoyment.”

In one study, college students were given a calendar filled with classes and extracurricular activities and asked to imagine that this was their actual schedule for the week.

Half of the participants were then asked to make plans to get frozen yogurt with a friend two days in advance and add the activity to their calendar. The other half imagined running into a friend and deciding to get frozen yogurt immediately.

Results showed that those who scheduled getting frozen yogurt with their friend rated the activity as feeling more like a “commitment” and “chore” than those who imagined the impromptu get-together.
“Scheduling our fun activities leads them to take on qualities of work,” Malkoc says.

The effect is not just for hypothetical activities.

In an online study, the researchers had people select an entertaining YouTube video to watch. The catch was that some got to watch their chosen video immediately. Others chose a specific date and time to watch the video and put in on their calendar.

Results showed that those who watched the scheduled video enjoyed it less than those who watched it immediately.

While people seem to get less enjoyment out of precisely scheduled activities, they don’t seem to mind if they are more roughly scheduled.

In another study, the researchers set up a stand on a college campus where they gave out free coffee and cookies for students studying for finals.

Before setting up the stand, they handed out tickets for students to pick up their coffee and cookies either at a specific time or during a two-hour window. As they were enjoying their treat, the students filled out a short survey.

The results showed that those who had a specifically scheduled break enjoyed their time off less than did those who only roughly scheduled the break.

Weird, huh?  I'm not exactly a person who does things on schedule. I kind of like whimsy to rule my life, which plays havoc with my marriage, as I have a husband who wants to go the same restaurant every Sunday night (our "date" night) and watch Fox News non-stop (and somehow, we're still married).

“If you schedule leisure activities only roughly, the negative effects of scheduling disappear,” Malkoc adds. Aim to meet a friend “this afternoon” rather than exactly at 1 p.m.

Of course, if you have the type of friends I do, that can mean, when it's starting to get dark.

One study showed that even just setting a starting time for a fun activity is enough to make it less enjoyable.
“People don’t want to put time restrictions of any kind on otherwise free-flowing leisure activities,” she says, pointing out that these findings apply to short leisure activities that last a few hours or less. I guess you wouldn't want to plan your wedding this way.


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