Efficiency Tips: Spend less time on your Timesheet

I am employed by a service company and we bill our clients for our services. Therefore, we must track our time spent on sponsor related work and pass the costs through appropriately. I am asked to track my time in 15 minute increments so I can basically report up to 4 time categories per hour or I can bill a half or whole hour to a specific time code. In order to receive a good performance rating, I must report at least 85% of my 40 hr work week as “billable time”.

My non-billable time codes are things like: Sick, Holiday, General and Administrative Duties (G&A), Internal training (not project specific), goofing off (ok, so that is not a category but if ever I am shy of 40 hrs and can’t account for the time then G&A is a good catch all), etc.

Billable time is coded by project (since I might work for several sponsors/projects at once) and then broken down into time categories as follows:
Project Specific Training / Sponsor Teleconferences – Reading protocols, watching power points, reviewing the Monitoring Plan, etc.
Preparing and Following Up – This category is used for making travel arrangements or writing confirmation/follow-up letters, or working on reports.
Traveling – Usually your project will have limits to how much travel time you are allowed to pass through. At my company, when long trips are unavoidable, you can lower your travel time by using the time in transit to complete other project related work such as studying or writing reports (billable to either of the 2 categories listed above) – obviously this works when on an airplane or delayed and not necessarily when driving!
Managing Sites – This is phone or email contacts to your study sites or running special project specific reports.
Conducting a Monitoring Visit – Actual time spent on site during SIV, COV, or routine MV.
Query/Database Management – Helping the site solve/close queries raised by data management, reviewing the clinical database, running reports, etc.
Expense Reporting – see my next post!

OK, so now that I explained how I categorize time, let me explain the time tracking system. You can think of it as a glorified version of Excel that lives on a web server. So to enter my time, I have to log into that system and enter all of my hours. We are asked to do this at the end of every day so we are as accurate as possible. Well, I don’t have internet access all the time so sometimes I let a few days pass and it really is hard to remember what you did for the past 48-72 hours by 15 minute increments. To solve this conundrum, I made a copy of the fancy web-based timesheet template in Excel and I just leave it on my desktop. Each day before I log out of work, I update my time in my Excel template. Then every 2 weeks (or as I have time) I log into the web-based system and transfer it all. I know this is multiple steps but it seems to work better for me. You could also use a journal or jot notes about how you spent your time in your day planner. Any other tips?

About The Author

The Lead CRA

Nadia started The Lead CRA blog in 2007. She is now lead author for ClinOps Toolkit. Nadia is currently working as a Clinical Program Manager at a small specialty pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach Nadia via email at [email protected] anytime.


  • Jerry

    July 18, 2014

    This is really interesting. I’m surprised to see that you were asked to report time in 15 minutes increments! Do you know if this is a requirement for all CRAs or was it just your company?

    P.S.: I’m a business school student interested in the healthcare industry.

    • Nadia


      July 19, 2014

      This was year’s ago but I assume it is still the same. I now work on the sponsor side rather than a CRO. I have to code 8 hours a day in the timesheet portal now to indicate if I am 100% on one trial or split across several. For the CRO back then, I would code certain tasks to certain activities. I would have G&A .25 in a day (general and administrative like timesheet, 4 hours to write monitoring reports and do follow-up, maybe .5 for training, etc.

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