Women’s Perfect Day: Can You Schedule Your Way to Happiness?

What makes a 'perfect day'? What makes a 'perfect day'? Planning the perfect day? Spend more time with your honey and less time with your boss, according to a new study, "Just a Perfect Day: Developing a Happiness Optimized Day Schedule," published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Economic Psychology.

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Inspired in part by musician Lou Reed's song "Perfect Day," researchers crunched data collected from over 900 employed women. Their goal: to find out what combination of activities engaged in for how long each day would produce the greatest well being. They found that women reported being happiest when they spent the least amount of time commuting and working and the most amount of time being close to their romantic partner or hanging out with friends.

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Many people know the feeling of being somewhere exotic on vacation and fantasizing about moving to that place, but then realizing what made it so special is that it was different from home. Similarly, the researchers point out that you can actually have too much of a good thing when it comes to pleasurable activities. Canoodling with your hubby is wonderful, but perhaps not for eight hours a day.

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The study's "happiness optimized schedule" includes tasks such as cooking and doing housework—just less of them. "Even the most pleasurable activity has a decreasing marginal utility," the authors write. "That is to say that the joy we get out of the first hour of shopping is likely to be greater than during the fifth or sixth hour." Also, "Certain activities are attractive because we do them so rarely." In fact, for their perfect day, the difference between time spent on the most hedonistic activity versus time spent on the most mundane is only about an hour and fifteen minutes.

According to the data, the average woman's perfect day would break down like this:

  • Intimate relations: 106 minutes
  • Socializing with friends: 82 minutes
  • Relaxing: 78 minutes
  • Prayer/meditation: 73 minutes
  • Eating: 75 minutes
  • Exercising: 68 minutes
  • Watching TV: 68 minutes
  • Shopping: 56 minutes
  • Cooking: 50 minutes
  • Talking in the phone: 57 minutes
  • Computer/Email/Internet: 48 minutes
  • Housework: 47 minutes
  • Napping: 46 minutes
  • Childcare: 46 minutes
  • Working: 36 minutes
  • Commuting: 33 minutes

The authors acknowledge that, especially on a weekday, relegating work and chores to the bottom of the list is unrealistic. However, they suggest that their findings can be used as a starting point for rethinking how we prioritize our time in order to achieve the most happiness.

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Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" consisted of being with a loved one and "drinking sangria in the park…feeding animals at the zoo… a movie, too, and then home." What makes a perfect day for you? Please let us know in the comments below.

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