Just Live Your Life! Scientists Say Schedulers Have Less Fun

Toss your calendars and chill the eff out.

Over-Scheduling Takes The Fun Out Of Free Time, Says Science Getty 

There are some travelers who schedule every moment of their trip. When something happens, such as a train that's running late or a special restaurant being closed, the traveler freaks out. Then, there's the much more spontaneous traveler who doesn't have everything planned out and improvises their trip, seeing things that they never expected to see or experience.

But it isn't just travelers who over-schedule — many people schedule everything in their lives, whether it's for work or for play.


And new research from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis advises that when it comes to having fun, it's best to throw out the to-do-lists, organizers, and calendars.

Gabriela Tonietto, a doctoral candidate in marketing, and Selin Malkoc, associate professor of marketing, conducted 13 social experiments to study how people experience leisure time. They found that when leisure time is scheduled, it increased anticipation but lessened 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," Tonietto said. Malkoc added, "We find that the detriment of scheduling leisure stems from how structured that time feels."


The key to being able to balance a schedule and still have fun is to roughly schedule free time and activities. For example, you might loosely schedule something for a certain day but without a set time. This ensures that the activity is still included in the day but still keeps it flexible and makes it feel less like work.

"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 said.

But don't toss your day-planners just yet — scheduling is actually beneficial to your productivity.

"On the flip side, we find that scheduling helps us get things done," Malkoc said. "Scheduling indeed increases our chances of engaging in them. But once we do, we tend to enjoy it less."


So don't be completely rigid when it comes to making plans. If you have to completely ditch the schedule, that's OK. If you're able to go with the flow but still have a vague idea of what you want to do, you'll have more fun while doing it.

In addition, give yourself the time to do it. If you're rushing around trying to cram sight-seeing in 14 countries in one week, no one is going to have any fun.