Saturday, November 27th, 2021

When the office is at home

By Cathy Kuzel on Feb 22 2010 • Filed under The Connected Woman

Two of the most difficult challenges for Small Office, Home Office (SOHO) businesses are Time Management and the separation of Home and Business Life. A SOHO Entrepreneur is typically not governed by the 9 to 5, ‘punch the clock’ environment and rightly so –- it was a choice to become a business owner. However, with the flexibility comes the temptation to say, “I’ll just squeeze that dentist appointment in right before the proposal meeting.” You’ll do what? 

It’s so easy to get ‘disconnected’ from a balanced lifestyle when one or the other is vying for our attention. Getting control of both business and personal areas of our lives requires organization and self-discipline.  

Here are a few ‘tasks’ to get started.

Determine where the time is spent.

By using a weekly Task sheet allocated in 15 minute increments, you will be able to determine how much time and where you spend the time on each task whether it’s personal or business related. Record the amount of time spent on each task. 

Colour code the tasks

Take a green highlighter and colour code all the business activities and then use a pink highlighter for the personal activities. Is it entirely green with a couple of pink spots? Or is it all pink with the odd green splotch? (Sounds like a rare disease!)  

Group the Tasks.

Tasks can now be grouped into blocks of time devoted to strictly business or strictly personal. A home office should be treated just like an outside office where personal matters (like laundry and hair appointments) should not interfere with business time. 

Now you have the building blocks to create a balanced Task Schedule that will accommodate your business and personal life.  

Simple guidelines to schedule your tasks include:

Decide how many hours to devote to the business.
On your Task Schedule, block off business hours to schedule work flow.
Add personal tasks to the Task Schedule, to keep them from interrupting business time.
Get a separate business line. (Yes, you heard correctly!) An all-purpose cell phone number is NOT professional. You may save a bit on your monthly phone expenses but you’ll ADD to your stress level.
Do not answer your personal line during business hours. If you have small children or aging parents that require you to be accessible by phone, have call display so that you can screen calls and answer only the emergencies.
Keep partners and others out of your business space and business time. They wouldn’t ‘pop in’ for a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon if you worked in an office would they?
Children don’t belong in your office time/space. It’s not fair to them or your business. Set time aside to devote your attention to them, uninterrupted. When you’ve scheduled business time, hire a sitter.
Leave one day per week entirely free of appointments and paperwork.

The more organized you are, the more effective and profitable your business will be!


There are several ways to track your time. 

You can get printed forms from Cathy's website. 

You can get a variety of calendars and appointment books to help you schedule and track your time through an office supply or stationary store.  

You can also use software to track how much time you're spending on the computer. Matt, our tech expert, will be reviewing one such program – Manic Time – next month. This utility tracks what programs you’re using and for how long, as well as which documents you are working on, where you go on the internet, and whether the computer is active or inactive at any point.


  1. Great article! Another tip I have found beneficial is to get dressed professionally in the morning (even if it is an “office” day), leave the house, drive around the block, and return. I find that by leaving the house, and then returning, I’m in the mindset to be “at work”.

    • Lisa,
      That’s a great idea! It’s all about getting started and getting ‘out’ of that home mind-set so you can get down to work isn’t it?
      Another tactic that can create that ‘go to work’ mode is to take the daily mail up to the post office – not the mailbox. That way you have to be dressed for business and it’s a little more effort. Once you’re on the road, it’s a business day.
      Thanks again for your comments Lisa. Look forward to see more on future posts!

  2. Great advice Cathy! It is a challenge when working from home, and having a weekly calendar to see your colour co-ordinated “work time” is definitely the way to go – you can see it at a glance. One more thing I’d like to add is that every night before you head off to bed, put in your calendar “the 6 most important things to do” the following day – just keeps you on track and ensures those ‘things’ will get done. Thanks Cathy….Carol

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for the comments. As a direct sales business owner with Mary Kay, you really understand the challenge of working at home and having that life/work balance. It’s amazing what things you can accomplish just by writing them down and then doing them – not getting sidetracked by the laundry, next door neighbour or the afternoon soap! 🙂

  3. Working from home requires discipline, but the payoff of flexibility and independence can’t be beat!
    Thanks for these common sense tips and tools Cathy.
    A good, straightforward time management system can make all the difference!

    • Hi Chris,
      You should know all about that as one of the hard-working coordinators with the CYBF – Canadian Youth Business Foundation. It’s one of the areas that I cover as a mentor with CYBF. New business owners and entrepreneurs are so passionate about their product/service that they tend to overlook the necessity of some sort of plan or schedule to manage time, effort AND money!

  4. Very savvy article with ‘on the money’ tips, thanks Cathy! I look forward to next month’s article.

  5. Hi Cathy,

    Great article and tools.

    I have found planning has been hugely valuable to my business and for me to maintain a sense of life balance and be able to do the things I love most. When I do my weekly planing I always keep in mind what the one thing I need to do this week to move my business forward is. I set this as my weekly milestone and then make sure that I undertake the actions to accomplish this one specific task….

    Being efficient and productive is what is required to work easy and have life balance.



  6. Good advice which I’ll try and follow. I recently moved my office out of my house and into my old bedroom at my parents’ house, in order to avoid a lot of the problems associated with kids & husband (who also works from home much of the time) coming into my office for advice/help/domestic matters. It’s great, except for the fact that it’s now my parents who ‘pop in’ to my office several times a day with random bits of news …. and I just can’t get cross with them in the way that I would with my kids.

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