ST. LOUIS, March 9 (UPI) -- Nothing kills the mood like a day planner. To have more carefree fun, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are recommending people ditch their organizers, calendars and to-do lists.
For many, it may seem like the only way to find time for fun and leisure is to block out an hour here and there in a planner -- schedule a place and a time, set reminders. Treating leisure time like a business meeting or doctor's appointment colors how a person experiences their "fun" time.
Researchers at Washington University conducted 13 social experiments to study how people experience leisure time. Researchers found when leisure time was scheduled, it increased anticipation but diminished enjoyment.
"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," researcher Gabriela Tonietto, a doctoral candidate in marketing at Washington's Olin Business School, explained in a news release.
Tonietto and her research partners say a calendar or day planner can be helpful but can also hinder fun. The authors of the new study on leisure time -- published in the Journal of Marketing Research -- recommend creating only a loose schedule for fun, a day but not an exact time.
"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."
"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," Tonietto added.
The findings don't suggest people should forego their organizing strategies. Studies prove planning and scheduling are are effective strategies for being more efficient with one's time and ensuring things get done.
"In our work, we find that this is also true for leisure tasks -- that is, scheduling indeed increases our chances of engaging in them," said study co-author Selin Malkoc. "But, on the flip side, we tend to enjoy it less."
The key is balancing structure and spontaneity.