Time Tracking Template for Instructional Design

Use this time tracking template to record how long you spend on each instructional design task. This improves future time estimates and invoicing.

Time tracking template screenshot

As an instructional designer, I often need to estimate the time it will take to complete a project. One tool I use for determining my estimates is records of how long past projects have taken. Having everything together in a spreadsheet like this time tracking template also simplifies my invoicing to clients.

In addition, I track non-billable time. I want to see how long I spend on administrative tasks like invoicing, as well as networking and working with prospects. Knowing how long I spend on tasks like writing proposals helps me identify places I could streamline my processes.

I use a Google spreadsheet for my time tracking template. You can view and save a copy of the template yourself. You can also download the template for Excel.

Automated formulas save time

I’ve been using versions of this spreadsheet for at least 10 years. In that time, I have tweaked the template and added a few formulas to make the process faster.

  • Time Spent subtracts the start time from the end time after you enter both.
  • Rounded rounds time spent to the nearest quarter hour. I never invoice in increments of less than 15 minutes.
  • Billable is a Y/N column. Administrative, business development, and professional development tasks are automatically marked N.
  • Invoiced automatically changes to N/A for non-billable tasks.


  • Use Ctrl+; to add the current date quickly.
  • Use Ctrl+: to add the current time for Start Time and End Time.
  • Leave the Invoiced column blank until you have actually sent the invoice. When you’re ready to invoice, filter for “blank” in the Invoiced column. That shows you everything you haven’t invoiced yet. Filter by project to see just the hours for that project.

Analyze with a pivot table

Pivot Table organized by Quarter and Month
Pivot table by quarter and month
Time Tracking Pivot Table organized by ADDIE phases
Pivot table by ADDIE phase

I use a pivot table to analyze how I spend my time. The time tracking template is set up to group data by month for invoicing purposes. You can also group by quarter.

You can adjust the pivot table to group by phases instead of month. This is especially useful when you’re estimating time for future projects. You can see how long each phase took for similar past projects and use that as the basis for your estimate.

You can also filter the pivot table by billable tasks, client, phase, etc.

Make it work for you

By default, the template is set up with ADDIE phases plus administrative, project management, professional development, and business development tasks. You can edit this list of Phases on the Named ranges tab. If you do change it, you also need to adjust the data validation in the Phases column. (The numbers in front of the ADDIE phases make them sort properly in the pivot table.)

Feel free to use this time tracking template yourself. Edit it to make it compatible with your workflow and needs. If you have questions or suggestions for improvement, ask them in the comments (or reply to this message if you’re reading this in email). You can also read more about how I determine my time estimates for designing and developing e-learning.

Originally published September 13, 2013. Last updated July 25, 2019.

33 thoughts on “Time Tracking Template for Instructional Design

  1. Hi Christy, I cannot download the template you shared on Google Drive. Could you update it or share with me the time spreadsheet?

  2. Hi Christy, thanks for this amazing resource… I just have a question… What’s the difference among Proj Mgmt, Business Dev and Administrative?

    1. I’m afraid that I don’t answer homework questions on this blog. However, that sounds like a question you could ask ChatGPT or Bard and get a reasonable answer.

      1. Uh… ok… I was just wondering because those were options in the Phases field…. Of course I know I can ask ChatGPT that question -_-, I was wondering about the way you differentiated those options…. Anyway…. that’s a very good resource…

        1. Ah, sorry about that! This is an old post, and without clear context in your comment I didn’t remember those were choices in the template! If your question had specified “in the template,” I probably would have figured it out. I do periodically get homework help questions here, and that question sounded like a homework assignment.

          The answers you’d get from ChatGPT would probably be pretty accurate though.

          • Project management tasks are things like planning project timelines, project update meetings, status updates, scheduling meetings, managing reviews, and project plan updates.
          • Business development tasks aren’t necessary if you work full time for a company. As a consultant, I track the work I do to build and develop my business: writing this blog, talking to new prospective clients, drafting proposals and SOWs, networking, updating my website/portfolio, etc.
          • Administrative work is invoicing, bookkeeping, reviewing and signing contracts, updating SOPs, etc. I also moderate two LinkedIn groups, and I classify removing spam and admitting new members as administrative.

          Project management is generally billable to clients. Business development and administrative work are not billable to clients. I still want to track my nonbillable time though, since it’s still a factor in how much I can do.

  3. Thank you, Christy! This is so valuable and useful. What do you use or recommend to use for keeping track of course maintanence? I work for an instititution that has to update course on an annual basis. And we have several versions of different courses running at the same time. Unfortunately our current LMS doesn’t offer a “master course” feature, so we’re keeping track of everything manually. Do you have a template for course updates or course maintanence that you can share? Thank you.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have a template like that. It’s been over 10 years since I worked internally at any organization and was involved in that kind of systematic update process.

      I wonder if you might be able to adapt a template from a tool like Airtable though. You almost need something more like Airtable that’s a real database, rather than just a spreadsheet. Then you can have one table with overall course info, then a linked table with versions, then perhaps another linked table for tracking tasks. It would take some time to set up, but the time saved might be worth it later.

  4. Hi Christy! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and this template! I am having some trouble getting the file. When I click your Make a Copy button, I get a message saying “Sorry, unable to open the file at this time. Please check the address and try again.” from Google Sheets on both my pc and my phone. Did the file move?

    1. Are you logged into your Google account when you press “Make a Copy”? I just tested it, and it’s working for me.

      If you have a workplace Google account, it’s possible your employer has restrictions on adding files in this manner. You might try logging in with a personal Google account instead.

      If you are logged in and don’t have any security restrictions, try this link instead. You’ll have to select File > Make a Copy once you open it to get an editable version. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EvbPVKooW4jzKUBwTuI-z9cZgoydwMJpWLo1TQEj8RY/edit?usp=sharing

  5. Thank you for sharing this! You have once again saved me a few hours of designing/developing my own and changing it a few times to see what I really needed in there. I appreciate you sharing this stuff with us IDs out in cyber space.

    1. I still use this spreadsheet for my time tracking. There are some other time tracking tools out there, but I like having control over my data and being able to manipulate it however I want. I made some adjustments this year to reorder the columns and automate a few tasks (If Billable=”N”, Invoiced=”N/A”). I expect you’ll want to do some tweaking too.

  6. Thanks for this, Christy. I’ve used something like these spreadsheets for contract work I’ve done, but came up with them over time. This is a great resource for new contractors and has given me good ideas on how I can improve what I already use.

    1. This spreadsheet has been under revision for years. I suspect I’ll continue to tweak it as my needs change. That’s the only way to create a spreadsheet like this that really works though–you start with something and you gradually improve it as you figure out more efficient methods. I figure anyone who really uses it will need to adapt it, but it does give people a head start from just starting on their own. Glad to know you’ve found something you can borrow for your own tracking system.

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