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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  • Geoff

    How does the red timer in the corner work?

    How many tocks do you typically do on a poker night?

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    The timer is called a Time Timer: http://www.timetimer.com/store/category/1/timers

    As for how many tocks, ideally the first tock is at 7pm and we do them hourly till midnight. So, five. If more people start coming we’ll actually stick to that. Beemium subscribers can participate remotely in our dev chatroom.

  • Jandro Manríquez

    This is genius! Why are you telling us this now?

    Also, I’m thinking of buying a Time Timer. Any recommendations on this? It’s quite expensive. Do you use them for other stuff too?

  • Pedro Paulo Jr.

    This is very cool. How do you convince people to come over on a regular basis?

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    So many things we’d like to blog about that are languishing as notes and drafts!

    As for the Time Timer, we don’t use it for anything else and it’s kind of silly to have dedicated hardware for something any phone can do fine, but in a group setting the ritual of it has value, I guess. Or is easy for everyone to see from across the room.

    Last night we tried being totally strict about starting each tock exactly on the hour. If you do that then everyone’s clock/watch/computer serves as the timer counting to X:45.

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    I think your first sentence answered your second sentence’s question! :)

  • Pedro Paulo Jr.

    fair enough :)

  • Jandro Manríquez

    I’m thinking of buying one instead of using my phone because my phone distracts me and also the screen goes dark or it runs out of battery. Do you recommend it?

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    Yeah, it’s fine hardware. No troubles with it for years.

    As for your phone, on Android you can turn on developer options and then choose “Stay awake — Screen will never sleep while charging”. That might make it more useful as a tock/pomodoro timer. See also the comments on http://blog.beeminder.com/tocks

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    Oh, actually, for those who read the Beeminder blog comments we actually described this 2 years ago! http://blog.beeminder.com/tv/#comment-691153967

  • http://appropedia.org/ Chris Watkins

    If you have an Android device, “Screen On” or similar apps can help (but won’t help your battery).
    Or to display just the current time with minimal impact on battery: “Night Clock”.

  • http://appropedia.org/ Chris Watkins

    Is this actually Pomodoro Blackjack?

  • http://beeminder.com Daniel Reeves

    Huh. Yeah, that makes more sense. But, I mean, what’s more important, making sense or alliterating?

  • Boris Gvozdev

    Haha, that’s nice! I’m currently looking for the ways people gamify pomodoro technique, this one definitely is the winner!

    I use another gamification of the pomodoro technique: each time you finishes a pomodoro, you receive a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, your goal is to collect all of them. https://puzzle25.com . Wish I got paid too, hehe :D