It's Saturday, and that means only one thing: The pressure to make weekend plans is strong. Your friends are blowing up your group text with attempts to make these so-called plans. Even your co-workers asked before you left work on Friday if you had any fun weekend plans — and you know they'll follow up again on Monday. You might even be asking yourself if you should just give in and make these plans. But you don't always have to give in — and, in fact, sometimes it's better not to. That's not just my opinion, by the way: New research provides a scientific reason to not make plans. Did Christmas just come a little early?
Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a series of separate experiments, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, that dealt with scheduling plans. The main takeaway is that scheduling plans, while useful, can also take the fun out of them. The researchers wrote, "Scheduling a leisure activity (vs. experiencing it impromptu) makes it feel less free-flowing and more work-like." As a person who doesn't really like to schedule plans far in advance, I'm going to have to wholeheartedly agree. It all seems like fun and games when I make the initial plan, but then when it comes to the follow-through, I suddenly regret all my life choices up until that point and feel like I'm dying.
They also found that scheduling activities in advance lessens both the pre-activity excitement and the actual fun experienced during the activity. So again, I say: Never make plans. Plans ruin everything. Live life in a whirlwind of spontaneous decisions. Just kidding, but not really though.
In case you're curious how the researchers arrived at these findings, it's pretty much what you'd expect: They did a series of experiments in which people would either do an activity they'd scheduled beforehand, or one that was arranged on the fly, and surveyed how they felt afterwards. In one experiment, researchers set up a pop-up café with free coffee and cookies on campus. Students who walked by were either told to schedule a later time to get their free treats, or were simply given a two-hour window during which to come get them. Participants answered a questionnaire afterward, and the researchers found that the students who had to schedule their study break didn't enjoy it as much.
So perhaps the main takeaway is not, as I previously suggested, to never make plans— but rather, to think about not over-scheduling yourself if doing so stresses you out. You can also make slightly vague plans — this is my personal strategy and recommendation. Trust me, it's fun. For instance, you make a tentative plan to grab dinner with a friend Saturday night and then figure out the place and time closer to the day of (or even the day of — it's anarchy, I know), rather than making an 8 p.m. dinner reservation three weeks in advance. You get some pre-event excitement, it doesn't feel like as much of a chore, and you won't forget that you made a plan to get dinner nearly a month ago.
But if you're fine with the way you plan out your free time, no need to do anything differently. Do you, live your best life.
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