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.



#434: Grist for an Unnecessary Mill

July 16, 2019 at 1:00PM • 1 hour 13 minutes

Show notes are short this week because Merlin had to go buy contrast paints for his figs.

Main topic is speculating about speculation.


#433: The Muscle of Worry

July 2, 2019 at 5:00PM • 1 hour 8 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan has found a terrific solution for his son's iPad case; on the benefits (and challenges) of getting away from our devices for a while; listener recommendations for YouTube keyboard commands, a book about cities, and some Disney scholarship; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener's question about "circular thoughts."


#432: Fingerspace Pollution

June 25, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 15 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin is a little hoarse; but what's an actual pony versus an actual little horse?; there's a lot of sadness and housing problems in the Hundred Acre Wood; the challenges of recommending starter media; the further challenges of being a media super-fan; (and how this relates to not seeing The Flintstones and stealing a copy of Fight Club from Blockbuster Video); Florida is hot; may everyone live long enough to feel bad for saying something really stupid on a podcast; is Piglet a small pig or just a pig baby?; Dan needs your help to find Cash a durable iPad case and keyboard solution; Merlin needs your help understanding the logic of keyboard media keys; to Dan, Piglet was always a baby pig; then, there's some follow-up on Disney parks; Dan again threatens to permanently ruin Disney for you, but he promises to clearly bracket it; and, finally, Dan has had it with people stealing flu valor. Just stop it, people.


#431: Costly Branded Waiting

June 20, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 41 minutes

First and most importantly, Dan is back! Woo!

Second, now, listen: please bear with me, and do not leave. Because, when I say we talked mostly about Disney—and especially Disney properties—it's way more interesting than you'd think. Or, so we hope.

Essentially, Walt Disney World in particular has the control, data, and means to be extremely good at resource management, and that's just fascinating to think about.

There's also some thank-you's, as well as some podcast recommendations, plus a response to a listener's question about choosing to use Apple's native apps.


#430: Shiny Red Cleric

June 14, 2019 at 2:00PM • 59 minutes

Dan's away this week, so Merlin tries going it alone.

Topics include lessons from painting D&D minifigs, listener letters, and some recommendations.

Feel better soon Dan; we need you!


#429: A Seer of Trees

June 4, 2019 at 9:00AM • 1 hour 32 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a catastrophic off-by-one-week error; Roderick's June is very triggering to your hosts; sometimes, it's nice to be exposed to stuff you didn't expect, but…; at a certain point in life, you mostly just see trees of inconvenience and risk; this leads to a long (and surprisingly pretty good) meditation on FOMO, acceptance, and not pretending to be a person you never actually were; Dan helps Merlin unpack a scene near his workplace; Merlin gets in the weeds about Roger Deakins, Torquay, and two different Richards Burton; then, there's a brief side trip into the reboot of Nick Fury; and, finally the boys answer listener questions about taking notes in college and feeling resistance to completing tasks.


#428: Prepare for Draculas

May 28, 2019 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

DISCUSSED: Nobody got enough sleep last night, but they're gonna power through anyhow; your hosts fawn over the amazing Chernobyl miniseries; various hardware mute button options are discussed; Merlin can't draw but is very excited about making pictures on an iPad; Dan is looking forward to seeing more Olyphant; your hosts address a listener's question about their "everyday carry," but honestly mostly end up talking about bags; also, you really need a bag in a bag in a bag; and, finally Merlin has an admittedly privileged aspiration involving keys.


#427: C. Thomas Hobbled

May 21, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

DISCUSSED: nasty, brutish, and short sleep; watching TV with a game controller; Dan has to deal with suite concatenation; your hosts crave the expertise of a craftsman; Merlin realizes he and his lady friend see very different forests (spoiler: hers is way better); popcorn ceiling comes in cans; your hosts contrast their views on kipple, sentimentality, and need; Dan struggles to turn off his buttons, and Merlin loves his iPad's Paste button; provisional, anecdotal praise for AT&T's Call Protect service; there's a distinction between long sleep and good sleep; Dan has to stab a prestige TV doppelgänger, and Merlin learns about Night Company; Merlin has recommendations for a Mac automation app, a new David Sparks Field Guide, and a handy new IoT dingus; speculation that smart home adoption truly won't tip until the interactions get less dorky; mobile charging options for travel are debated; everybody needs a Dad Hat; and, finally, with only three days of school left, Dan receives a very concerning email.


#426: New Wave Night

May 14, 2019 at 2:15PM • 1 hour 28 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan has a new setup, and Merlin randomly recommends a kids' book; your hosts remember too much; Dan realizes he took the wrong shop class, and Merlin realizes why Generation X was (and remains) mostly useless; Dan walks us through his new setup, and the boys talk about the joys of VNC; Merlin is excited about the new "Guard" functionality of the Amazon voice dingus; Ferris Bueller's Day Off is still very good; what is the sound of one Koan falling?; your hosts discuss an article proposing why everything should take 20 minutes; Merlin dives deep on his own longstanding use of this heuristic; this leads to some classic #productivity talk; there's some instamatic camera nostalgia; Dan has a new project, and you should maybe contact him; Once AGAIN!; the glory of Spirited Away is discussed; Dan recommends a good TV show for date night; and, finally, Dan and Merlin admit they'd probably watch basically anything about Watchmen.


#425: Off the Cushion

May 7, 2019 at 4:30PM • 1 hour 30 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan explains what the photos he sends mean; Merlin encourages Dan to air a beef, and Dan kindly assents; Oh, boy, Windows! My old nemesis…Windows!; the Mac's interoperability glory days were amazing; it really sucks to watch a computer start up and start up and start up; ports confuse Merlin, who is now officially an old; Dan and Merlin talk about a few things they enjoyed watching on YouTube; Merlin has a recommendation for downloading internet videos (purely for educational reasons); Merlin also recommends a really good podcast episode about "data-driven parenting"; then, Merlin kinda pops off a little; hey, listen: you can rarely have benefits without risks (and kinda vice-versa); Dan's watching Deadwood again, and Merlin gets kinda excitable again and does lots of quotes for some reason; and, finally, Merlin has a super-tip about improving your results in Apple Health.