The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In

Gabriela N. Tonietto and Selin A. Malkoc
Article Snapshot
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Key Takeaways

​While scheduling poses several benefits, scheduling has a unique detriment when applied to leisure activities. 

Scheduling leads leisure to feel more like work and reduces how enjoyable leisure tasks are.

This is not due to a boost from spontaneity. 

Roughly scheduling without pre-set times alleviates the negative effect of scheduling. 

The negative effect of scheduling is unique to leisure and does not occur for work tasks.

​Article Snapshot​s: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Marketing Research​​​​​​

Scheduling can lead leisure activities to feel more like work, reducing excitement in anticipation of the activity as well as experienced enjoyment.


The existing state of knowledge in psychological and behavioral sciences indicates that scheduling the activities one desires to do is a purely beneficial strategy with several upsides (like making sure that activities will be engaged in) and no downsides. We challenge this conventional (and scientific) wisdom and predict that scheduling will have systematic negative consequences for leisure activities. In particular, we hypothesize that when scheduled, leisure activities will feel more work-like, making them less enjoyable - both in anticipation and in actual experience.


We conducted a series 13 lab and field experiments. We compared consumers' feelings toward scheduled leisure versus impromptu and roughly scheduled leisure. We have measured how work-like these activities feel, as well as how exciting and enjoyable they were.


We consistently find that scheduling leisure activities make them feel like work and decreases how much consumers enjoy them. We find that the detrimental effects of scheduling stem from the way scheduling structures time. As such, any scheduling that does not specifically structure time but only roughly sets time (e.g., Thursday afternoon or before dinner on Sunday) does not make the leisure tasks feel more work-like and thus not decrease their enjoyment. We further find that these effects are unique to leisure activities and do not occur for work tasks.


Our results have important implications for happiness and well-being, showing that a common behavior (i.e., scheduling) can undermine enjoyment for fun, leisure activities. We also provide a "best of both worlds strategy" whereby scheduling that is rough rather than specific allows consumers to enjoy leisure to its fullest without relying on spontaneity. Further, our results show that marketers may benefit from policies that encourage more impromptu behavior, for example through call-ahead seating rather than advanced reservations, to help maximize long-term customer satisfaction.

The graphic outlines our main findings, whereby scheduling a leisure activity makes it feel more like work, reducing enjoyment. However, this effect is mitigated by roughly (rather than specifically) scheduling the leisure activity.​

Questions for the Classroom

  • Consumers use their time in consuming services (e.g., massages, movies, restaurants). Do you think scheduling these by making appointments is useful for the companies?  

  • What about the consumers?

  • Can you think about reasons why scheduling such leisure activities might hurt both the consumers and the service providers?

Article Citation

Gabriela N. Tonietto and Selin A. Malkoc (2016), “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In,” Journal of Marketing Research, 53 (6), 922-936.

Gabriela N. Tonietto is a doctoral candidate, Washington University in St. Louis (e-mail:

Selin A. Malkoc is Assistant Professor of Marketing, The Ohio State University (e-mail:

Author Bio:

Gabriela N. Tonietto and Selin A. Malkoc
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