The Two Most Important Lists You'll Ever Keep

Last Updated May 19, 2009 9:43 AM EDT

It's time to create two lists, arguably the only two you'll need to keep focused at work.
  1. Things That Keep Me Up At Night.
  2. Reasons I Get Up In The Morning.
According to Alan M. Webber, blogging on Harvard Business Publishing, the items you put on these lists helps define who you are -- the first step toward becoming a better manager.
"Managers and leaders have got to know themselves before they know their businesses," writes Webber. "They've got to have passion for their work and concern for their world. Otherwise they're just punching the time clock and risking everyone's future."
Webber includes this advice in a larger post on the topic of what business schools should be teaching their students. It jumped out at me as a worthy exercise to help many of us gain perspective as well as keep our priorities straight.

Writing my own lists, I was struck at how much the recession is both keeping me up at night (for example, worry over what the economy is doing to people I know both financially and psychologically) as well as fueling my creative energy (using simplicity and focus to leverage fewer resources into more productivity). I wonder, is there something I can do to move more 'keep me up' items to the 'reasons to go to work' side of the ledger?

How would you fill out your lists?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.