Be More Spontaneous! Study Finds Scheduling Events Makes Them Less Fun
Picture this: A friend texts you and asks when you’re free for lunch at one of your favorite restaurants. You exit your text message app so you can open up your calendar app to see when you can spare an hour or so. You pick Wednesday at 12:15 p.m., text her the date and time, and then go back to schedule it into your calendar app after she confirms.
What’s wrong with this scenario? To most people, it sounds like a great way to plan ahead and stay organized. To researchers at Ohio State University, however, it’s a surefire way to ruin the fun long before that lunch date is set to take place.
According to a series of 13 different studies, people who scheduled lunch dates with friends, coffee breaks, movie dates and other leisure activities caused them to anticipate less enjoyment compared to doing the exact same activity that wasn’t planned.
In one of the studies, a group of students used a calendar that showed a number of classes and extracurricular activities. Half of the students were instructed to imagine planning a casual frozen yogurt date with a friend two days in advance so they could put it in their calendar while the other half of the group was told to imagine running into a friend and deciding to go get frozen yogurt right on the spot.
The students who were asked to schedule their frozen yogurt dates reportedly felt like adding them to their calendars in advance made them feel like it was a chore.
In another study that was conducted online, a similar experiment was done with YouTube videos. One group of people were able to watch a YouTube video of their choice instantly while another group had to schedule a time and date to watch it later.
The YouTube viewers who had to watch their video at a scheduled time and date ended up enjoying less compared to those who were able to watch their video immediately.
Scheduling may help people stay organized, but it also changes the way they perceive and anticipate their leisurely activities. The researchers pointed out that people generally associate scheduling with work, and so scheduling leisurely activities essentially gives them qualities of work that make them seem like more of a commitment and therefore less fun.
The takeaway from this research seems like it would be a recommendation to be more spontaneous, or to live more in the moment. After all, it’s not uncommon for planning and scheduling to cause stress and anxiety.
There is, however, sort of a middle ground between scheduling and spontaneity that the researchers recommend. In another study that involved handing out free coffee and cookies to students on campus, two types of tickets were handed out — one that students could use to grab their free coffee and cookies at a specific time and another that students could use to pick them up anytime within a two-hour timeframe.
Using survey results that the researchers collected from the students, they found that the students who were given the two-hour window to pick up their coffee and cookies enjoyed their break and treat more than those who had to go and pick them up at a specific time. In other words, scheduling leisurely activities in a broader time period causes work-like effects of scheduling to fade away.
So next time you need to schedule a lunch date, a girls’/guys’ night, a backyard barbecue or whatever else, try scheduling it in a way that doesn’t force you or anyone else to commit to an exact time. Between noon and 1:00 p.m., this evening after 5 p.m., or just before the dinner hour are some good examples of how to just roughly schedule a fun event without spoiling the fun.
And hey, if you’re feeling like being spontaneous, go ahead and do it! Nothing really beats living in the moment and taking full advantage when you get the opportunity to do just that.
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