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Whether it’s the weekend or an upcoming holiday break, a number of studies have shown that people who set personal goals to achieve during their time off — such as seeing friends, pursuing a hobby, or even organizing a closet — report being happier than those who don’t.
The reason this works is that it makes us more intentional about how we will spend our time away from work and not because it allows us to cross things off from yet another to-do list.
Employees who have holiday goals further anticipate allocating 24% less time to passive leisure activities such as watching TV, napping, or doing nothing, and 28% more time to socializing with their friends and family.
These differences in how we plan to spend our time off matter for our well-being: Studies show that planning to spend more time with loved ones is associated with greater happiness. This is in line with one of the most consistent finding in time-use and well-being research on the unique benefits of social connection.
Similar to holidays, people who have goals for their weekends are also more likely to spend their weekends pursuing social activities and less likely to spend their weekends resting or doing nothing. And spending one’s weekend engaging in social activities may in turn lead to greater happiness.
The positive effects of setting goals aren’t just limited to weekends and holidays, but can actually be tapped into on a daily basis — setting goals for how we spend our evenings can even be beneficial.
While setting goals for our time-off is important, that doesn’t mean we should treat those goals like a to-do list. We should be flexible.
Research by Gabriela Tonietto and Selin Malkoc showed that scheduling leisure activities can undermine the enjoyment people experience from such activities in part because leisure starts to feel like work. These authors found that when people scheduled leisure activities loosely, they were still able to maintain the enjoyment of leisure time.
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