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Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: The Impact of Task Juggling on Workers’ Speed of Job Completion

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  • Decio Coviello
  • Andrea Ichino
  • Nicola Persico

Abstract

We show that task juggling, i.e., the spreading of effort across too many active projects, decreases the performance of workers, raising the chances of low throughput, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs. Individual speed of job completion cannot be explained only in terms of effort, ability and experience: work scheduling is a crucial “input” that cannot be omitted from the production function of individual workers. We provide a simple theoretical model to study the effects of increased task juggling on the duration of projects. Using a sample of Italian judges we show that those who are induced for exogenous reasons to work in a more parallel fashion on many trials at the same time, take longer to complete similar portfolios of cases. The exogenous variation that identifies this causal effect is constructed exploiting the lottery that assigns cases to judges together with the procedural prescription requiring judges to hold the first hearing of a case no later than 60 days from filing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16502.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16502

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  1. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Bloom, Nicholas & Propper, Carol & Seiler, Stephan & Van Reenen, John, 2010. "The Impact of Competition on Management Quality: Evidence from Public Hospitals," CEPR Discussion Papers 7862, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Nick Bloom & Carol Propper & Stephan Seiler & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Management practices in the NHS," CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance 305, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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  8. Kandel, Eugene & Lazear, Edward P, 1992. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 801-17, August.
  9. Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti, 2006. "Peers at Work," NBER Working Papers 12508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Malmendier, Ulrike M. & Della Vigna, Stefano, 2003. "Contract Design and Self Control: Theory and Evidence," Research Papers 1801, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  11. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Salvatore Capasso & Tullio Jappelli, 2011. "Financial Development and the Underground Economy," CSEF Working Papers 298, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  2. Anzelika Zaiceva & Klaus Zimmermann, 2011. "Do ethnic minorities “stretch” their time? UK household evidence on multitasking," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 181-206, June.

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