Can I Close My Open Door?

We’ve all heard it – we’ve all said it: “I have an open door policy.” “You need to have an open door policy.” “An open door policy is the best.” But is it? One of our roles as consultants is to ask provocative questions and to challenge the status quo. Somewhere along the way, the (unrealistic) expectation has become that an “open door” means a door that never ever closes. It seems that more and more, the status quo is for Assisted Living Directors to be all things to all people. But as each of us knows (or suspects!) when we try to be all things, we end up being nothing. When we try to be all places, we end up being nowhere. Part of being a successful director is effective and efficient time management. And part of effective and efficient time management is knowing when to say when and knowing when and how to draw boundaries (and keep them).

There are three keys to success when it comes to managing the dual demands of an “open door” and being efficient at time management. The first key is KISS – keep it simple sweetheart. This means that when we are at work, we are at work. When we are at home, we are at home. Yes this is easier said than done for salaried folks. However, some of the most successful leaders, politicians, and celebrities (people who are exceptionally busy) know that they give it their all while at work and they focus on work. But at the end of a long day when that quitting bell rings, it’s time to go home, kiss their families enjoy some downtime, and rejuvenate. When we let work spill into home life and home life spill into work life for days and weeks and months and years on end, we end up diluting our effectiveness (and frankly our joy).

The second key is communication. Yes we need open doors. Yes we need to sometimes close those doors. This works well when you communicate your schedule with your team and those you serve. Consider scheduling a couple office hours each morning with your door closed and perhaps an hour in the afternoon. Check in for an hour when you arrive and do walking rounds then shut your door and go to it for a couple hours – being sure to let your team know you are unavailable unless there is a true catastrophic emergency. As much as possible try to stick to this schedule of office hours/available hours. Consistency is essential. Appoint someone to be in charge during these hours. If you have managed your team well, you have made yourself dispensable and there are others who can and will cover for you successfully.

The third key is thoughtful prioritization. What this means is that you value the worth of your time – in particular you know the worth of your minutes. Some of you may have heard the example of having $86400. If you lost $1 or even $100, would you toss away the remaining dollars? Most likely not. There are 86400 seconds in each day. How many of us who are having an “off” minute or hour may then let it affect the whole day? In essence, we are throwing away the entire day because of an off moment or moments. Our time – your time – is far too valuable. When we realize we have no more and no less than 1440 minutes each day, it helps us set priorities on how we will use those minutes and to whom we will give them. To greatly paraphrase one of our favorite authors, Kevin Kruse, who wrote “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management:” Successful people think differently. They make the most of the minutes they have. They are thoughtful and disciplined about how they use those minutes. And some of them likely ask themselves each day, “How would your life change if each and every day you truly felt your 1440 minutes?” So dear colleague, we ask you – how indeed would both your work life and your personal life change if you valued your time – your most valuable possession – as much as you value others’ time and demands?

So the answer is yes – you can close your open door provided you know when to do so and communicate your availability. Remember to channel your focus and to value your most precious commodity – those 1440 minutes in every exquisite day.

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