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Don’t spread yourself too thin. The impact of task juggling on workers’ speed of job completion

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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Paper provided by Tor Vergata University, CEIS in its series CEIS Research Paper with number 185.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 24 Jan 2011
Date of revision: 24 Jan 2011
Handle: RePEc:rtv:ceisrp:185
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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Antoinette Schoar, 2003. "Managing With Style: The Effect Of Managers On Firm Policies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1169-1208, November.
  2. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
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  4. 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.
  5. Luis Garicano & Paul Heaton, 2007. "Information technology, organization, and productivity in the public sector: evidence from police departments," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19686, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp0716, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti, 2006. "Peers at Work," NBER Working Papers 12508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Kandel, E. & Lazear, E.P., 1990. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Papers 90-07, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
  10. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation And The Propensity To Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047, August.
  11. 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.
  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.
  13. 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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