Why you shouldn't schedule leisure activities

There's no question that planning is an integral part of lives. We schedule everything from meetings at work to haircuts and dentist appointments.

But did you know that scheduling leisure activities like happy hour can actually make them less enjoyable?

According to a series of 13 studies from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, leisure, once scheduled, becomes more like work. That causes people to become less excited by and even resentful towards such scheduled leisure.

In the end, people enjoy such activities as going to a movie and grabbing a bite to eat much more when they're unscheduled.

It makes sense that we would derive less pleasure from activities we've jotted down in our planner or smartphone calendar. Think about it: We've all made plans ahead of time, only to blow them off because we weren't in the mood or just didn't feel like standing up and getting dressed.

On the other hand, if a friend proposes that you go on a road trip together on the spur of the moment, it leaves you with no time to object or come up with excuses because, well, it's happening right now. If you plan something, say, three days in advance, it increases the likelihood that other things will come up or you'll change your mind.

In other words, it's because of the exciting and time-sensitive nature of spontaneous activities that we relish them much more than we do planned activities.

The researchers suggest being a little less structured with your plans. For example, instead of getting coffee from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., you could aim to grab a cup of joe "in the afternoon." Similarly, instead of planning to bowl with friends between 10 p.m. and midnight, you could say "after dinner."

Structure and routine are things we normally associate with a job or chore, not hobbies and fun activities. While our busy schedules may at times necessitate planning outings with friends around other to-dos (childcare, etc.), we should at least try not to schedule them for, say, every third Friday of the month at 8 p.m. Mix it up every once in a while; maybe you can have an afternoon picnic one month and dinner the next.

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