Support Our Work

News & Press

Return to News

Take Time to "Sharpen Your Saws"


The path I took that brought me to a point in my life when I chose urban forestry as a profession was long and anything but direct. Ultimately, working with the natural world and people were two key things I gravitated towards. I had always loved hiking and being outdoors when I was younger. Urban forestry seemed to fit as a career choice for me. I love trees and learning as much as I can about individual tree species.


As a municipal arborist I’m reminded at times of the reasons why I chose urban forestry as a career. But more frequently I’m spending much of my day thinking about budgets, policies, regulations and other government-related issues. On a daily basis these things can dominate my mind and time to a point that can almost make me forget that I’m working with trees. I find this very challenging. Weeks may go by at times where I don’t have time to go in the field and work with trees directly.  I like to solve problems and be challenged at work…..but not over-challenged to a point that I lose sight of the big picture. I think that many times in life we can all lose sight of the important things in life.  


One way I try to keep some level of focus on the important things is to challenge myself to continue to keep learning. Keep the mindset that there’s always more to learn and not everything has been done under the sun. It helps keep me sharp and grounded. I had a boss once who often said that he needed time to think and re-charge or he would burn out. To avoid burning out he would find time weekly to relax and calmly research some area of his profession that he really enjoyed. He referred to this as taking time to “sharpen my saws”.


I need time to “sharpen my saws” too, to stay focused and grounded. Many of the challenges I take on as a municipal arborist require creative solutions. Budgets are usually tight and creative solutions are essential to effectively managing tree work. Continuing to keep learning about the industry helps me to approach problems creatively.


Urban forestry is a young industry and there’s so much new research that’s being conducted. Best practices evolve all the time. There is a wealth of new and older knowledge waiting to be discovered for most professionals. An article I came across recently really surprised me and helped again to re-focus on the important things. The article described the discovery of a hemlock species in Korea. A coworker forwarded it to me in an email. I sometimes delete those emails immediately because I feel swamped, glad I didn’t in this case.


I found this discovery astonishing and I encourage you to read it. It’s a quick read and it’s refreshing. If you’re a bit of a tree nerd like me I think you’ll love it. This new species of hemlock may help scientists find a way to restore hemlocks to areas plagued by the devastating hemlock woolly adelgid. It also mentions a scientist that was studying the genetics of Asian hemlocks. The scientist begins to question established facts, and approaches a problem creatively which ultimately culminates with the discovery of a new tree species.


I encourage you to read this article or take time to learn something new about trees. In doing so hopefully you will find time to “sharpen your saws”, focus on the important things and help move industry of urban forestry forward. There is knowledge out there that can help us as professionals to stay sharp, driven and to continue to provide more and more tree benefits to communities.