IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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

  • Decio Coviello
  • Andrea Ichino
  • Nicola Persico

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

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

in new window

Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16502
Note: LE LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Mas, Alexandre & Moretti, Enrico, 2006. "Peers at Work," IZA Discussion Papers 2292, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  7. 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.
  8. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and explaining management practices across firms and countries," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 733, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Bertrand, Marianne & Schoar, Antoinette, 2003. "Managing With Style: The Effect of Managers on Firm Policies," Working papers 4280-02, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  10. 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.
  11. Luis Garicano & Paul Heaton, 2007. "Information Technology, Organization, and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from Police Departments," CEP Discussion Papers dp0826, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. Stefano Della Vigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402, May.
  13. Kandel, E. & Lazear, E.P., 1990. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Papers 90-07, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16502. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.