Life

The one bad habit proven to make your free time less enjoyable

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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We've all been there, filling up our diaries and calendars with carefully scheduled appointments, meetings and leisure activities in an effort to stay on top of our to-do lists.

But while this approach is practical for work-related matters, a new study has shown that planning our leisure activities for a specific date and time can actually make them less enjoyable.

Whether it's drinks with a friend, a family brunch, or even just some much needed me-time, it appears an element of spontaneity is key for boosting our happiness during our precious free time.

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The study, which draws together research from 13 individual studies, showed that attaching a date and time to planned leisure activities made them feel more like work than play.

The results were the same for a whole variety of fun activities, from grabbing a coffee to watching a play, with those participants who made specific plans for the activities enjoying them less than those who didn't.

Selin Malkoc, an associate professor who co-authored the study at Washington University, told Fox News, “We consistently find that leisure, once scheduled, becomes more like work.

“As a result, people become less excited and even resentful towards such scheduled leisure. Maybe more importantly, they also enjoy scheduled leisure significantly less than unscheduled leisure.”

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However, making no plans at all is an impractical way to live life. So how can we boost our enjoyment of leisure activities and still make the plans we need for them to happen?

According to the researchers, it's all about adding a dash of spontaneity to our social lives.

“For instance, instead of getting coffee from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., you could say ‘in the afternoon,’ or instead of 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., you could say ‘after dinner,'” Malkoc said. 

“We regularly find that when scheduling is done in this less specific way, it does not lead leisure to feel more like work, and thus it does not reduce enjoyment.”

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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