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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Decio Coviello & Andrea Ichino & Nicola Persico, 2010. "Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin: The Impact of Task Juggling on Workers' Speed of Job Completion," NBER Working Papers 16502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16502 Note: LE LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Capasso, Salvatore & Jappelli, Tullio, 2013. "Financial development and the underground economy," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 167-178.
    2. Kreter, Stefan & Rieck, Julia & Zimmermann, Jürgen, 2016. "Models and solution procedures for the resource-constrained project scheduling problem with general temporal constraints and calendars," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 251(2), pages 387-403.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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