Australia's Time Use Survey – Paper Diary Help


This page is for people selected in the Time Use Survey and looking for help completing the paper diary. If you have incorrectly come to this page, you can return to the Time Use Diary Frequently Asked Questions page by clicking here. If you are looking for Online Diary help, you can find that by clicking here. Alternatively, for help or more information please call us on 1800 246 878 during business hours. For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will return your call as soon as possible.


Frequently asked questions How do I complete the time use diary?
The time use diary covers how you spend your time over a two-day period. Here are some tips to help you complete the diary:
  • The front cover shows your allocated two days for completing the diary.
  • Across each day of the diary, there are rows and columns for you to complete. Each row represents a five-minute interval and each column relates to a different aspect of how you spend your time.
  • Please provide as much detail as you can about what you did across each day. It doesn’t matter how uninteresting or routine you think something is, please record it.
  • Please record everything you do in your diary, even if the activity takes only a few minutes.
  • At the beginning of the diary, there are instructions and examples of completed diary pages which are designed to help you complete the diary.
  • There are questions at the beginning of the diary that you will answer before recording your activities. You will also find questions to answer at the end of each day. These questions cover your health and well-being, what type of day it was and any unpaid voluntary work you may have done.


When should I fill in the diary?
The front cover of the paper diary shows which two days have been allocated to you. The diary starts at midnight on day one and covers the following two-day period. Please record your activities in the diary on the allocated days. This way, you are less likely to forget what you did on those days.


Can someone else in my household complete the diary on my behalf?
It is best if each person allocated a diary completes their own diary to ensure an accurate account. If you are unable to complete the diary yourself, then someone else can complete it on your behalf.

If you are completing the diary on behalf of someone else in your household, you will need to obtain their consent before doing so.
If you are not sure whether you should complete the diary please call our team on 1800 246 878 during business hours.


Can I change the diary days I’ve been allocated?
No, you cannot change the diary days allocated. It is important for you to complete the diary on the days allocated to you. Diary days are allocated to each household in advance to ensure that we gather information which represents every day of the week. When choosing the diary days, we have taken into consideration the seasons and other times of the year that may influence people’s activities, such as public and school holidays.


What if my allocated diary days are not like my usual days?
If you are not doing what you would usually do on your allocated diary days; for example, if you were travelling or you were sick, please continue to record what you did on each day as this information is just as important.


Do I need to record activities for every five minutes?
No. If you were engaged in an activity that lasted longer than five minutes, such as sleeping, you can record the activity in the diary at its start time and draw an arrow down the page until the time that you finished the activity. This way, you can easily show when an activity started and finished.


How do I record more than one activity at a time in the diary?
The diary contains two columns for recording your activities. The first column is for recording your main activity and a second column is for recording any other activities you were doing at the same time.
  • In the main activity column, record what you consider to be the main activity that you were engaged in at the time. For example, if you were commuting, cooking, or reading a book.
  • In the second activity column, record any other activities you were doing at the same time as the main activity. For example, if you were cooking dinner and listening to the radio at the same time, you would record listening to the radio in the ‘other activity’ column.


How do I record my location if I’m travelling or using transport?
If you were travelling or using transport, please record the mode of transport in the “Where were you?” question. For example, if you were travelling to work on a bus, please record “bus” in this column.


Do I only record the people I was doing the activity with?
No. Please include those people who are in the same place as you at the time, even if they were not doing the same activity.


What happens after I’ve completed the diary?
Please refer to the instruction sheet that was included when you received your diary.

If you have received a paper diary from an interviewer, they will either arrange a date and time to collect the completed diaries, or provide a reply-paid envelope for you to send the diary back to the ABS.

If the arranged date and time has passed and your diaries have not been collected, if you would like to arrange an alternative collection date and time, or if you have misplaced your reply-paid envelope, please call our team on 1800 246 878.


Who can I contact for help with completing the time use diary?
For help, or more information about completing the diary, please call us on 1800 246 878 during business hours. For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will return your call as soon as possible.


Thank You
We acknowledge and value your time and effort participating in this survey. It is only with the support of people like you that we can continue to produce the statistics that inform Australia's important decisions.

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