Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more.

Hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.



#316: Corona MacGuffin

March 21, 2017 at 3:00PM • 1 hour 11 minutes

This week, Dan and Merlin have one of their beloved "odds and sods" episodes. Something for everyone in this diverse and bewildering episode.

"Same day delivery!"


#315: The Nakamichi Deal

March 14, 2017 at 3:45PM • 1 hour 36 minutes

TOPIC: "Delivery Attempted."

This week, Merlin struggles with his coffee-making options, and Dan recalls his days of fishing lures. USPS deliveries, several TV shows, and Wolverine's disturbing bone claws are also discussed.

Listener Jackson writes in to ask about dealing with failings of self-discipline.


#314: Which Fellini You Want to Be

March 7, 2017 at 5:00PM • 1 hour 41 minutes

TOPIC: "Remember this film is supposed to be a comedy."

This week: Dan struggles with his progressive lenses, but he really liked the movie, Logan. Merlin's daughter has made four piles, and he finally accepts that he really should be watching more movies for his "work." Then, there's follow-up on that crazy S3 typo and some pretty poor Oscars® OPSEC.

Then we're on to answering listener feedback via two futurist hats and a parenting hat:

  • Listener Andrew, on self-driving cars and the mainstreaming of ponderous tech punditry.
  • Listener Jason, on whether a future of voice computing will become a sociopathic blight.
  • Listener Mark, on where the heck to find reasonable resources on better parenting.


#313: Parents, Old People, and Perverts

February 28, 2017 at 3:30PM • 1 hour 34 minutes

TOPIC: You can't perfect life.

This week opens with the carnage of today's Amazon S3 problems and why so much of the internet seems broken. A brief history of outage monitoring is provided and a praxis for improving the process is proposed.

Dan and Merlin debate what can be learned from how kids and other non-olds use technology "wrong." Should they be learning from us or should we be learning from them?

This leads to some deeper ruminations on how we can choose to get better at doubting our own perceptions and correcting our own weird thinking. The future still isn't here yet—and that's kinda what makes it the future.

After some discussion of mental health and creativity, the show pivots into yet more discussion of emerging technology, and how it consistently scares the crap out of people until…it just doesn't.

Dan and Merlin wrap by answering a listener's question about whether it's better to be good at writing or at speaking.


#312: Snake Eating Its Own Goodwill

February 21, 2017 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

TOPIC: You're living in the future!

This week, Merlin is in a bit of a tizzy as he tries to make coffee, redo his ads, and change his productivity system at the same time. Todoist and the evolving landscape of task apps are discussed. Dan likes Trello and Merlin likes tearing everything down and maybe just starting over.

iPhone call ID and blocking apps get the treatment and Merlin has some recommendations.

Dan has some questions about comics, and the boys reminisce about The Simpsons. As you do.

Things get a little dark as your hosts look at deploying web ad (and tracker) blocking as survival and safety OPSEC.

This leads to the donning of Futurist Hats and some subsequent speculation about the unfathomable things we might expect from our devices in the coming years.


#311: A Fair Eight

February 14, 2017 at 4:15PM • 1 hour 13 minutes

TOPIC: Alice hopes to hear from you.

This week's episode is packed—literally, packed—with useful tips, tricks, and even a crazy challenge.

Psyching yourself into falling asleep, learning how to breathe, using your iPhone's secret trackpad, and a gauntlet thrown (or maybe dropped?) to make yourself do everything with your voice for a day.


#310: Nominally Mine

February 7, 2017 at 5:15PM • 1 hour 19 minutes

TOPIC: My place is here—I fight with you!

This week, Dan and Merlin cover a meetup announcement, Merlin's Les Mis obsession, Dan's new Hackintosh Method, and the Benjamin Family's slippery bar problem. Merlin advocates for "The Tiny Life Improvement Project." Pens and pencils are recommended, desks are discussed, and LBJ speaks out about his bespoke slack needs.

The boys talk about the FTC's actions over Vizio's super-creepy user tracking, and wonder what questions to ask about the future of privacy on our smart devices.

Things wrap with a quick discussion of culture-specific cargo culting and why we still cut the ends off the roast.


#309: Hard Pass

January 31, 2017 at 4:15PM • 1 hour 17 minutes

TOPIC: Celebrating your successful failures.

This week, Dan and Merlin kick off with discussion of night bears, the ascendance of Netflix, and some very nice emails from listeners. Merlin also shares an important life hack for Twitter.

Merlin brings in a new thought technology via Jen Kirkman guesting on John Moe's wonderful podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression: learning how to talk back to the voices in your head.

Dan gives some big updates to his (theoretical) project to build a (theoretical) Hackintosh. Huge week.

Finally, Merlin shares a thought on how to potentially find success in your miniature failures. What happens when you decide to keep doing something not because you want to succeed at it…but just because it's a thing that you do?


#308: When Does the Fork Go on the Sat?

January 24, 2017 at 5:30PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

TOPIC: Act like you're somebody that you like.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the evolution of voice recognition and touch interfaces and reminisce on the early days of making the turtle move.

Dan brings in the topic of how fears of both failure and success lead to missed opportunities. Your hosts talk about how to track down the nagging bad feelings about these regrets and troubleshoot what we can learn from them.

Merlin talks about recently returning to “Morning Pages,” what he’s learning from doing it, as well as some tips to help you get started with doing your own daily brain dump.


#307: #43 on The Ladder of Kindness

January 17, 2017 at 5:15PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

TOPIC: Youth is the aberration.

This week, Dan provides updates on his Hackintosh project, which leads to a discussion of finding reviews and advice with context. The hosts realize, acknowledge, and quickly move past their program’s 6th anniversary, spending more time on that drum sound Merlin makes with his mouth.

Recent email pitches are discussed, and advice is offered on smarter ways to pitch strangers on practically anything.

Merlin responds to a question from a listener about learning to find inspiration in the absence of crisis.