Date of Award
Olin Business School
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Time is an important but limited resource, and consumers are constantly looking for ways to get more from their time. This has led to the popularity of scheduling as a strategy to help consumers manage and organize their time. Although scheduling is both highly recommended and widely adopted, surprisingly little is known about the psychological effects of scheduling. In this dissertation, I explore the potential effects of scheduling for task enjoyment, perceived time, and time consumption, finding that scheduling may have some important hidden costs. In the first chapter, I examine the effect of scheduling leisure activities. While prior research has demonstrated many benefits to scheduling in the work domain, the leisure domain has remained unexplored in the literature. I propose that scheduling uniquely undermines the benefits of leisure activities. In particular, I argue that by imposing temporal structure on otherwise free-flowing leisure activities, scheduling can lead leisure to feel more like work and reduce both the anticipation and consumption utility for the scheduled activity. In thirteen studies using unambiguous leisure activities that consumers commonly schedule (e.g., movies, a coffee break), I find that scheduling a leisure activity (vs. experiencing it impromptu) makes it feel less free-flowing and more work-like. Furthermore, scheduling diminishes utility from leisure activities, in terms of both excitement in anticipation of the activities and experienced enjoyment. Importantly, I find that maintaining the free-flowing nature of the activity by “roughly scheduling” (without pre-specified times) eliminates this effect, thus indicating that the effect is driven by a detriment from scheduling rather than by a boost from spontaneity. Finally, the effects of scheduling are unique to leisure and do not occur for work activities. Thus, by examining scheduling outside of the work domain, I am able to identify and demonstrate an important detriment to scheduling. Having examined the effect of scheduling on the individual scheduled tasks, in the second chapter, I next examine the effect of scheduling on the time surrounding scheduled tasks. That is, consumers often organize their time by scheduling some tasks while also leaving some time unaccounted. I examine whether the presence of scheduled tasks systematically influences the perception and ultimate consumption of intervals of unaccounted time. Across nine studies conducted in both the lab and field, I find that bounded intervals (i.e., that end in a scheduled task) feel prospectively shorter than equivalent-length intervals that are unbounded, leading consumers to use this time differently. I propose that this temporal contraction of bounded time is driven by attentional narrowing, whereby salient future tasks loom nearer, making the distance to these tasks feel shorter. In line with this, I find that only terminating (vs. initiating) boundary tasks that mark the interval endpoint contract time. Finally, in line with the notion that once time feels short it may also feel scarce and insufficient for completing tasks, I find that consumers become less willing to spend their time once it is bounded, forgoing in particular relatively extended (though feasible) and productive tasks in favor of shorter and more easily accomplished tasks. This chapter identifies unique outcomes of scheduling, finding that how consumers organize their tasks impacts not only the scheduled activities, but also consumers’ perceived time and decisions of how to consume their available time throughout the day. My results show that scheduling can inadvertently contract the perception and consumption of unaccounted time.
Chair and Committee
Selin A. Malkoc & Stephen M. Nowlis
Cynthia E. Cryder, Joseph K. Goodman, Alan J. Lambert, Robyn A. LeBeouf,
Tonietto, Gabriela Nicole, "The Hidden Costs of Scheduling: Temporal Structure Reduces Task Enjoyment and Contracts Time" (2017). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1164.