We examine how multitasking affects performance. We also examine whether individuals optimally choose their degree of multitasking or whether they perform better under an externally imposed schedule. Subjects in our experiment perform two different tasks according to one of three treatments: one where they perform the tasks sequentially, one where they are forced to multitask, and one where they can freely organize their work. Subjects who are forced to multitask perform significantly worse than those forced to work sequentially. Surprisingly, subjects who can freely organize their own schedule also perform significantly worse. These results suggest that scheduling is a significant determinant of productivity. Finally, our results do not support the stereotype that women are better at multitasking. Women suffer as much as men when forced to multitask and are actually less inclined to multitask when being free to choose. Copyright The Author(s) 2012
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