American Economic Review: Vol. 104 No. 2 (February 2014)


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Time Allocation and Task Juggling

Article Citation

Coviello, Decio, Andrea Ichino, and Nicola Persico. 2014. "Time Allocation and Task Juggling." American Economic Review, 104(2): 609-23.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.2.609


A single worker allocates her time among different projects which are progressively assigned. When the worker works on too many projects at the same time, the output rate decreases and completion time increases according to a law which we derive. We call this phenomenon "task juggling" and argue that it is pervasive in the workplace. We show that task juggling is a strategic substitute of worker effort. We then present a model where task juggling is the result of lobbying by clients, or coworkers, each seeking to get the worker to apply effort to his project ahead of the others'.

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Coviello, Decio (Institute of Applied Economics, HEC Montreal)
Ichino, Andrea (U Bologna and European U Institute, Florence)
Persico, Nicola (Northwestern U)

JEL Classifications

J22: Time Allocation and Labor Supply
M12: Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
M54: Personnel Economics: Labor Management

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