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To-do lists may make leisure time less enjoyable

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Heading out to have some fun? Leave your to-do list behind, say scientists who found that scheduling leisure activities decreases enjoyment, making them feel like chores.

Finding enough hours in the day to get everything done is, at times, a seemingly impossible task, researchers said.

Scheduling, whether keeping a calendar, a to-do list or setting a smartphone reminder, is a saving grace for many people trying to accomplish as much as they can, as efficiently as they can.

Researchers from Washington University conducted 13 studies examining how scheduling leisure activities affects the way these events are experienced.

They showed that assigning a specific date and time for leisure can have the opposite intended effect, making it feel much like a chore.

Additionally, they found that both the anticipation of the leisure activity and enjoyment from it decreased once it was scheduled.

"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," said Gabriela Tonietto, a doctoral candidate at Washington University.

Researchers suggest a roughly scheduled leisure activities (on a certain day, but with no set time, for example) to ensure that leisure is included in a day but still keeps some flexibility, making it feel less like work.

"We find that the detriment of scheduling leisure stems from how structured that time feels," said Selin Malkoc, associate professor at Washington University.

"While we may tend to think of scheduling in structured terms by referring to specific times - such as grabbing coffee at 3 pm - we can also schedule our time in a rougher manner by referring less specifically to time - grabbing coffee in the afternoon," Tonietto said.

"Roughly scheduling a leisure activity does not feel as structured, does not lead leisure to feel more work-like and thus does not reduce enjoyment," Malkoc said.

While the research shows less scheduling is a good thing when it comes to fun, the researchers stress that people still need to hang onto their calendars.

"On the flip side, we find that scheduling helps us get things done," Malkoc said.

"We find that scheduling indeed increases our chances of engaging in them. But, once we do, we tend to enjoy it less," she said.

The study was published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

First Published: Tue, April 12 2016. 13:13 IST