Time Allocation to Routines versus Creative Tasks: A Regulatory Focus Perspective
At work, people need to allocate limited resources (e.g., time, effort) to a variety of goals and tasks. At any job, people should meet some requirements, responsibilities and routines, but at the same time, they also need to promote innovation, creativity and change. In the current research, we examined the effect of regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997, 1998) on the decision of how to allocate time between routines and creative tasks. In addition, we examined some potential mediators and moderators explaining the effect of task type on the allocation decision.
Using both lab and field studies we showed that people systematically allocate more time to routines than creative tasks. However, this allocation pattern depends on individuals’ self-regulatory focus, induced regulatory focus, and psychological distance. Also, this effect is mediated by perceived importance of the task.
Our findings contribute to both regulatory focus and time allocation literatures, by shedding light on the role of regulatory focus in decisions about time allocation between work tasks. We suggest that the nature of the task determines its perceived importance, and as a consequence, the decision of how much time will be allocated to this task. In addition, promotion focus (both personal and induced) increases the time allocated to creative tasks. Our findings could be implemented by managers who wish to increase the time allocation to creative and innovative tasks. Future studies are encouraged to continue exploring the effect of regulatory focus on time allocation in more field studies, at the team-level, and on actual time allocation at work.