In his classic poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost speaks of taking a moment to watch the snow collect on the trees along a dark lane, presumably on his way to somewhere important. He closes with these lines:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
As business professionals, we all struggle at times with similar feelings, conflicts, and doubts. We may want to stop for a moment in the middle of a busy day to enjoy a mental break, but in the back of our minds (or even the front sometimes), we can’t shake the nagging sense that we should be focusing instead on the work that lies ahead.
Like the narrator in Frost’s poem, we, too, have promises we must keep — commitments we’ve made to customers, vendors, employees, colleagues, family members, and friends. That can often mean long days, sleepless nights, and not a lot of extra time to watch snow falling on trees.
In our drive to stay ahead, we often miss the forest entirely — distracted by the hundreds of tiny details that make up our days.
That’s not to say our promises aren’t important. Quite the contrary. In business, our word <em>is</em> what ultimately matters most to our customers, shareholders, vendors, and employees. Failing to keep our commitments can have dire consequences for our companies and our reputations.
But there’s also something to be said for taking the time to stop and look around. A small mental break might help to spark a bold new thought or rekindle a flame burnt out by trying to get too much done in far too little time.
Such moments are important to our own well-being and to the health of our companies. They can’t come at the expense of getting things done, but they should come more frequently than many of us allow.
So as you go about managing your business, take some time to notice the little things around you. Like the fall of snow on the trees that line the path that wanders through your day.