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Deadlines and Distractions


Author Info

  • Maria Saez-Marti
  • Anna Sjögren


We consider a principal-agent model in which a task, demanding a sequence of efforts by the agent, must be completed by a certain date. Effort is not contractible. Agents are subject to shocks affecting their opportunity cost of time such that they are distracted from work when the opportunity cost of time is high. We show that the probability that a task is completed by the deadline is a non-monotonic function of the agent’s probability of being distracted. The anticipation of future distractions induces rational agents to get started earlier for precautionary reasons. As a result, agents who are more often distracted may outperform agents who are distracted less often. Principals can increase the probability that the task is completed, and thus achieve higher profits, by strategically setting "tight" deadlines, provided that these can later be extended with a positive probability.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 347.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:347

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Keywords: Deadlines; time-consistency; timing of effort; optimal incentives.;

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  1. Flavio Toxvaerd, 2003. "A Theory of Optimal Deadlines," Discussion Paper Series, The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem dp357, The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  2. Fischer, Carolyn, 2001. "Read this paper later: procrastination with time-consistent preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 249-269, November.
  3. Flavio Toxvaerd, 2004. "Time of the Essence," Discussion Paper Series, The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem dp358, The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  4. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1997. "Incentives for Procrastinators," Discussion Papers, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science 1181, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-99-20, Resources For the Future.
  6. Sjögren, Anna & Saez-Marti, Maria, 2004. "On the Timing of Education," Working Paper Series, Research Institute of Industrial Economics 614, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Kyle Hyndman & Alberto Bisin, 2009. "Procrastination, Self-Imposed Deadlines and Other Commitment Devices," Departmental Working Papers, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics 0904, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.


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