You might want to reconsider that packed weekend itinerary.
Perhaps you've felt it before: anxiety, regret, even dread about those weekend plans you have scheduled. Suddenly, going to restorative flow yoga is a source of stress, and meeting a friend for cocktails is sounding worse by the minute.
There's a reason for that.
According to more than a dozen studies, scheduling makes otherwise leisurely, fun activities feel like obligations.
Selin Malkoc, an assistant marketing professor at Ohio State University, explained the phenomenon in a series of separate experiments, which were published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
“We found that the simple act of scheduling makes otherwise fun tasks feel more like work,” she told The Conversation. “It also decreases how much we enjoy them.”
It’s not the activity itself that’s the problem. Even if all you have to do is show up for your reserved-in-advance poolside cabana, it’s the very act of assigning a specific time and duration to an event that makes it feel like a chore.
Malkoc and her team asked participants to imagine a number of scenarios, such as getting frozen yogurt with a friend, or even spending an afternoon in the forest canoeing and hiking. Anytime a strict time was involved (as opposed to a general window), the snacks, friends, and outdoor activities became less appealing.
“Strict scheduling,” Malkoc said, “is at odds with how people think about leisure and relaxation. On the flip side, structured time is associated with work activities.”
Not everything, unfortunately, can be done on the whim. Scheduling is a fundamental part of planning a vacation. After all, the first step in taking a trip is typically booking tickets or requesting time off from work. That means committing to—at the very least—a specific departure date and time.
The solution? One of Malkoc’s studies determined that simply relaxing your schedule can help keep things fun and exciting. She calls this “rough scheduling.”
Instead of organizing every detail of a weekend or trip, keep the itinerary as flexible as possible. Spontaneity makes things interesting, and you could find yourself more excited about the upcoming break from the everyday.
Even if it feels counterintuitive, try taking a (somewhat) impromptu trip. You’ll love being unhindered by reservations and expectations. Of course, you can always start small: Try leaving this weekend relatively unplanned.