Dr. Helen

Should You Get Rid of Your "To-Do" List?

Like many of us, I keep a to do-list handy so I don’t forget appointments or events that I need to attend but is this such a good idea? One study says that these scheduled events are making us less happy:

Your social calendar might be sucking the joy out of activities that are supposed to be fun or relaxing, according to an upcoming paper co-written by a professor who studies time management.

The paper argues that when a leisure activity is planned rather than spontaneous, we enjoy it less.

That’s because we tend to mentally lump all our scheduled activities in the same bucket – whether it’s a dentist appointment or grabbing coffee with a friend. And that makes the pleasurable activities more of a chore.

“It becomes a part of our to-do list,” wrote Selin A. Malkoc, one of the study’s authors, in an email to The Washington Post. “As an outcome, they become less enjoyable.”

The paper, to be published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychology in April, is written by Malkoc, an associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University, and Gabriela Tonietto, an assistant professor at Rutgers Business School. It notes that there are many things grabbing at our free time….

We schedule activities back-to-back for fear of not accomplishing them all. Malkoc – who has an expertise in how people perceive and consume their time – links the over-scheduling of free time to the value that we place on achievement over contentment.

“The focus on productivity is so widespread that people even strive to make leisure productive and brag about being busy,” reads the paper.

So we do more and enjoy less.

I think technology has made everything seem like an appointment with all the Google calendars, reminders and alarms. I still write down my to-do list on a paper calendar because I can see the whole month and it doesn’t feel as rushed or annoying.