Pomodoro Poker

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
By dreeves

Whiteboad at the beehive

Last week Bee talked about Tocks. That’s our neologism for 45-minute pomodoros, as well as our characteristically over-engineered system for minding them. She listed some gamification-y tips for effective tocking and assured everyone that all our other ideas involved money. That of course included beeminding tocks, as discussed last time, and certainly includes Pomodoro Poker.

So what is Pomodoro Poker? Well, for the last three years (ever since we moved to Portland) we’ve hosted a weekly hack night at the beehive where we invite our friends to come over and then sit quietly and not pay any attention to each other. It’s generally the most productive night of the week. Here are the rules:

  1. Everyone antes a dollar
  2. We each write down a task on the whiteboard
  3. Start a 45-minute timer
  4. Cross off your task as soon as it’s done
  5. The last person done (without going over, price-is-right style) wins the pot
  6. Repeat every hour

If no one finishes in time (which is common) the money rolls over to the next round. And we do get to socialize during the 15 minute breaks.

Why does the last person done win all the money, instead of the first? The idea is to train ourselves to estimate how long tasks take, to learn to define tasks that can actually be done in 45 minutes of focused work.

The game theorists in the audience are now wondering why you wouldn’t pick a trivial task and drag your feet on it for 44 minutes and 59 seconds and then come in under the wire. It’s called honor, game theorists. Or pride. The tasks are public, and the whole point is to increase productivity. If you pick something over-ambitious and then work like mad futilely trying to finish in time, well, that’s easily worth the dollar! But as long as you’re not sandbagging, it’s fair game to pick a task that you’re certain you’ll finish in way less than 45 minutes, in hopes that you’ll be the only one to finish at all.

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