The 21 questions my friend asks me every night over the phone

Several months ago, I attended the GTD Conference, where I heard Marshall Goldsmith describe what he called “Peer Coaching”:

Every day Jim asks Marshall the same 24 questions. Every day Marshall asks Jim the same 17 questions. Marshall and Jim each have a spreadsheet of each other’s questions where they record for each other the answers: ‘yes’, ‘no’, or a number. Structuring the questions in this way keeps the phone call moving. Each phone call lasts only a couple of minutes.

I thought it was a fantastic idea, so for the past three months, Brian Russell and myself have had a similar phone call every night.

There were three rules:

  1. We each wrote our own questions.
  2. We committed to call each night (except for when Brian was in South America)
  3. All the questions had to be specific–answerable with a yes/no or number between 1-10.

What we learned:

  • Writing good questions is hard
  • Honestly answering these questions is even harder–I’m confronted with failure on a daily basis
  • The emotional connection of a phone call is SUPER important for accountability–when Brian was in South America, we tried using a spreadsheet, but I never remembered to update it.
  • Focus on simplicity. If you can’t finish the phone call in 5 minutes, you’ll start dreading it (of course, most nights we end up talking for fifteen minutes, but that’s just bouncing ideas around and being friends.)
  • The call is a great way to celebrate successes and reboot from failures–on a daily basis.

Brian and myself became friends in middleschool, and we’ve built a close friendship since then. I respect his reliability, his advice, and his sensitivity. Reliability is also a function of interest. Brian spent some time thinking about it, and decided this was something he was interested in enough to commit to for a month, and we’ve just kept going strong since then.

Jeff’s Questions:

  1. Did you accomplish the three most important tasks on your todo list for today?(Have you set three todo’s for tomorrow?)
  2. How many hours did you work on tasks that would directly make money?
  3. Did you spend time reading/learning for the long-term?
  4. How much time did you waste on e-mail/the web?
  5. How many times were you late to meet someone?
  6. Did you compliment at least three people today?
  7. How many times did you criticize?
  8. How many times did you try to prove how smart you are?
  9. On a scale of 1-10, were you a non-interrupting listener, relevant storyteller, and intentional conversationalist today?
  10. (If Fasting day) Did you fast today?
  11. What was one way you failed today?
  12. How many times did you have a lustful thought about a woman?
  13. How many times did you worry today (like about the future)?
  14. Did you read your Bible today?
  15. Did you spend dedicated time in prayer today?
  16. How many people did you witness to today?
  17. How many pushups?
  18. Did you brush your teeth?
  19. Your plan between now and bed?
  20. By whose power did you live and for whose glory?

Brian’s Questions:

  1. Have you kept your eyes pure?
  2. Have you kept your thoughts pure?
  3. Did you read your Bible?
  4. How many times did you pray?
  5. Did you read a book?
  6. Did you procrastinate your 3 priority tasks?
  7. Have you set three tasks for tomorrow?
  8. How many hours did you work for money?
  9. How many times were you late?
  10. During conversation, were you proactive? (leading, affirming, exhorting, rebuking)
  11. How many pushups?
  12. Did you brush your teeth?
  13. Your plan between now and bed?

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