Skip to Content

Take Back Your Life By Closing the Door

From the first days of my tax practice I have had an open door policy to clients and employees. This worked well when I had fewer clients and demand by new clients was limited. After over three decades in business I am finally closing the door to take my life back. It was a long overdue change.

It was a client that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can’t blame this one client; it was many that wanted a piece of me that brought me to this point.

The final client that pushed me over the edge is a partner in a family limited partnership. Partnerships are always difficult. Too many people want to be captain and few want to be midshipmen.

This partnership has three general partners and several limited partners. There seems to be a constant struggle between the three generals.

In this case, the general partner in question loves to show up unannounced and start making demands. My open door policy was being taken advantage of.

She would frequently send an email demanding an impromptu meeting (or just show up) about a hot topic in the partnership and then at the meeting go on about everything but what she said the issue was so the same issue can be used to interrupt again. It was manipulation to get her disruptive way.

I have worked with another general partner for over two decades and several of the limited partners for nearly as long. Disengaging the partnership seemed unfair to these people so I bit my tongue when this particular GP wanted to take the reins with her poor style of management.

The final straw came when she called five minutes before close one day making several demands. I was in no mood. I got the message but did not return the phone call. I went home.

The next morning I had a full schedule of appointments with clients that had the courtesy to call ahead to set an appointment. Before I get to the office she shows up and demands I drop everything for what she wants. And I wasn’t even in yet! My gatekeeper texted me what was happening.

When I arrive I enter the building via a side door, as I always do. I learned long ago if I want to get anything done I can’t walk in the front door. I stand a real chance of getting hit with a litany of quick questions that will consume an entire morning.

My gatekeeper informed me she was in the waiting room. I made it clear my schedule was full and I could not see her. She waited most of the day in the waiting room before leaving. She even stayed sitting there when I left for an appointment on the road.

And that is when I closed the door and started building walls. The open door policy had come to an end.

Schedule your time wisely.

Closing the Door

No one client is worth it. I sent an email to all three general partners explaining what happened and that I would disengage if it happened again.

That is when I learned why she needed attention NOW!

Most of the limited partners were in town and she wanted distribution checks so she could personally hand them out to look like a bigshot. This would not be so bad until you understand I have been advising for almost five years they need to start making distributions. Plus, we discussed distributions two weeks prior with no action taken at that time. The door closed with a slam.

Closing the door, building walls, and setting parameters are vital if you want to be successful and have wealth. Even during earlier times when I allowed unscheduled meeting with clients it cost me something. A very big something. You can’t be available at all times to many people if you want to be effective and productive. Saying “yes’ is saying “no” to everything else.

Close family makes the list for an open door policy. That is it. (Note: I started typing “Family makes. . . ” before hitting backspace a few times and typing, “Close family. . . “) By close family I mean my wife and kids.

It sounds cruel, placing a barrier between me and and the world, especially extended family. That is why so few learn the skill. But the real cruelty is to yourself when you allow the winds of life to dictate your schedule.

Scheduling works time and free time are vital to mental health. So is journaling.

Slamming the Door

Ryan Holiday has an excellent article he published a few years back on the subject, To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just A Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs To Say Yes. I highly recommend reading it.

In his article Holiday describes what he calls calendar anorexia. The idea is to keep your calendar as clear as possible without harming your career.

Of course, you might see the problem already. Holiday spends his day as a writer. He should be writing, and when not writing, marketing and promoting his work. How many appointments would the guy have to take?

More than you might think! It is easy to think a doctor, attorney, accountant, or any other professional has a more difficult time clearing the schedule. But if you land on the New York Times Bestseller List people will want a piece of you. They will want “just a moment of your time”. And then you have fans that “just” want to meet you. It is easy to lose touch with reality.

The grass is not greener on the other side. Each successful person has their own challenges. People will want a piece of your most precious asset: time.

So I finally closed the door. With a slam!

To be fair, it was in process a long time. A gatekeeper guarded the pass for decades, keeping sales calls and other time wasting interruptions at bay.

I built walls into the structure of my office so clients could not “catch me” as I worked. (Imagine how unfair it is to the client I am working on (or with) getting placed on hold due to a “quick question”.)

Several years ago I started entering the building by a side door near my personal office to avoid an accidental meeting before I start my day.

I also close the door to my cubical when I need uninterrupted time.

But it wasn’t enough! A small number of people are insistent on disruption. In a few instances I have had people push their way to the back of my building to where my office is. A few times I had a client sitting with me when this happened! This is an excellent way to get fired real fast.

My IT firm built a large wall into the phone system. Now you need to push a button before the phone rings through. All automated spam calls disappeared. This freed up time for the gatekeeper. (Her time is valuable, too.) If you push the button for me you automatically go to my voicemail. Sorry. I’ll return the call when I scheduled time for phone calls.

And recently I slammed the door tighter than ever. Outside tax season, my office is locked 24/7, even during regular hours.

I moved to a BY APPOINTMENT ONLY model. No appointment, no entry.

Once again it sounds cruel, but it is necessary if I am to provide the quality service my clients deserve. No more “just” stopping by to chat, or drop off papers, or for a quick question. . .

No, if you want to see me, you need an appointment. Yes, I am booked out. Yes, I will see clients. Yes, I will receive paperwork. Yes, I will {gasp} answer quick questions. But, no, I will not be at the world’s beck and call. All these things will get done by my schedule. Anything else is chaos.

Closing the door is the only way to get work done. Productivity and efficiency require it. Your sanity demands it.

Taking Your Life Back

If you are wondering how the changes are working, they are working very well.

I block out time in my schedule for meeting clients, taking and making phone calls, answering emails. When the slots fill, they are filled. No stuffing the schedule so my day looks like a zoo.

I also block out time for reading and research. This may sound like free time to some, but when you work in a profession, a large part of your day is dedicated to learning and researching issues for clients. That is what I get paid to do.

I also block out time for deep thinking. It is during these times when I get my best ideas and give myself plenty of time to flesh out the details. Every client wants me to have ample time to think through situations. It is a vital part of a professionals work.

Deep thinking is not only sitting back in my chair and staring out into space. Walking, running or other exercise and be part of the process. I have a kettlebell at the office I swing around sometimes when I think. It helps with focus.

Most of my schedule is empty, as it should be. Time spend in front of clients is not the bulk of my work. The real work gets done after you leave.

I suggest you review your daily schedule, kind readers, and set boundaries. It is impossible to maximize your success when you are constantly on call.

Leave plenty of open space in your calendar. Your profession will determine the structure of your schedule. Professionals need deep thinking time, a craftsman will need time in the shop, a farmer needs to plan crop planting/harvesting and/or animal husbandry.

Even in retirement you should have a schedule with lots of open space.

As Ryan Holiday says in his article, everything you say “yes” to is a “no” to everything else. Be careful what you yes to. It can take over your life.

I am very protective of my time and getting more so each day. It is for my mental health and wellbeing. It is also for you if you are a client. You want me focused and on task.

Tax season is fast approaching. Phone calls and client appointments for dropping off paperwork, picking up and reviewing their tax return and discussions while preparing a return are fast approaching.

Now that I think of it, tax season is year round. And the closed door policy has been a great success.

I will unlock the door during regular hours February 1 to April 15. The gatekeeper will be busier than ever fighting them off. Regardless, my schedule will have limited space for appointments. Please, call ahead.

You want it that way if you are a client because that is the only way to assure I have the uninterrupted time to do your tax return correctly and with the lowest amount of tax allowed by law.

You might even notice a tax accountant wandering the neighborhood totally content and unbridled with stress. A lesson for us all.


Tuesday 27th of September 2022

In the end close family is the most important reason.

Keith Taxguy, EA

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Yes, it is.

Charlie @

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

I assume this won't work if you're an employee 😛. There the challenge is to set boundaries so the boss doesn't harass you too much outside of work hours!

I have a client that likes to set up meetings with multiple parties without checking whether I'm available first. Need to decide how to handle that, since they treat it like an employee relationship rather than a service provider.

Keith Taxguy, EA

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Charlie, this can work as an employee. The employer will have parameters, of course. As for your client, make sure your schedule is available to all who schedule for you. Fill in time slots you don't want appointments set. For example: 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. working on tax return for 3 clients; 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. lunch; 12:30 p.m.-1 p.m. phone calls and email; 1 p.m.- 4 p.m. left open for appointments; 4 p.m.-5 p.m. returning phone calls and emails.

You can set several weeks in advance with varied open times each day so clients needing early or late appointments have options. The boss will love how much your productivity increases. If they don't a competitor will.


Monday 26th of September 2022

Yep...I was actually fired because I was the only one who consistently accepted all calls causing my workload to fall behind. Here I thought I was a great employee who cared for their customers only to be shown the door. Fortunately, and little did I know, that was the last time I would ever punch the clock before we officially FIRE'd . I sure wish I'd known that so long ago as it would have saved a lot of mental anguish.

Keith Taxguy, EA

Monday 26th of September 2022

Having a schedule, John, in retirement also helps. Building walls so you control your time is important.


Monday 26th of September 2022

Appreciate your insights and example. Super-healthy and words for the wise.

Rory Sweeny

Monday 26th of September 2022

Love it!