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Returning to STEM
Returning to STEM

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2 Where does your time go?

In this section you will look more closely at how your time is used.

One of the important considerations in planning to return to work after a break is thinking about how you are going to manage your time. Before you start thinking about the practicalities of juggling work, family and other commitments, it’s worth thinking a bit about how you spend your time. This will help you when you get to the point of making plans to accommodate new activities and commitments into your schedule, and help you identify areas where you need additional support, or perhaps where you could be more efficient with your time. Above all, you will need to use your skills to prioritise.

Activity 2 Your work–life balance

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Last week we asked you to keep a diary of how much time you spend each day on the various activities listed below:

  • sleep
  • commuting
  • work
  • education/training/research
  • caring for dependents
  • health and fitness
  • leisure and socialising
  • family commitments
  • chores.

Take a look at what you noted and add up the number of hours you spend in total on these things. Now subtract your total from 168 (hours in a week) to find how much time you have left over each week.


Now you have completed a diary of your activities, reflect on your results by considering the following questions about your own work life balance:

  • Are there aspects that you would like to change?
  • Are your priorities likely to change in the future?
  • In which areas can you afford to be more flexible?

Whatever work-life balance you aspire to, managing and planning your time are going to become very important when you try to take on the added responsibility of returning to work. We will look at a number of time management tools this week.

Activity 3 Prioritising your activities

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Now you know how you are spending your time, it is useful to think about how to prioritise these varied activities. A useful method that can help in prioritisation is to think about how important or urgent (imminent) the task is and then categorise each task into one of four categories:

  • Important and urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important and not urgent
Described image
Figure 2 Categories

Look at the diary you kept last week of how you spent your time. Find an activity for each of the categories:

  • Important and urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important and not urgent

In this section, you have looked at how you are spending your time at the moment. In the next sections, you will think about the range of factors you have to consider before returning to the workplace. These responsibilities are different for every individual. Once you have looked at your responsibilities and thought about what your priorities are, you will return to the subject of planning your time in order to achieve the work-life balance you want.