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.


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#77: Sadness Harmonica

July 23, 2012 at 1:45pm • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Motivation, Hardware Stores, and Fighting the Last War

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about motivation—how it changes, how it doesn't, and how it can be fueled by anxiety and cognitive dissonance.

There is also discussion of Merlin's pear tart problem, the challenge of the engineering triangle, and, yeah, a new t-shirt That's Fine for Merlin.


#76: The Avatar of Dorian Gray

July 16, 2012 at 4:00pm • 1 hour 27 minutes

TOPICS: Better Meat & Working Backwards

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the many strategic and tactical benefits of reverse-engineering your next project.

There is also extensive discussion of choosing, preparing, and cooking meat.

It's not food until is sounds like food and it smells like food.


#75: The Mayor of Perspective

July 9, 2012 at 3:30pm • 1 hour 27 minutes

TOPIC: Feeling Stuck in the Middle

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about a topic suggested by listener, @toddsandends: what happens when you're stuck enforcing rules you don't agree with?

Whether you're a security guard, an RA, a SysAdmin, a character on The Wire, or pretty much anybody else, sometimes there's just stuff you gotta do. Even when you think it's a terrible idea.

So, who's allowed to corrupt you, what's it worth, and how long is that going to be okay with you?

As ever, work is a lot of work.


#74: Cheap Liberal Arts Relativism

July 2, 2012 at 3:30pm • 1 hour 24 minutes

TOPIC: How Much Honesty Can We Stand?

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about how ridiculously complex "Honesty" can be. Do "Candor," "Transparency," "Frankness," and all those other Capital Letter Nouns mean the same thing?


#73: Permission to Unclench

June 25, 2012 at 5:30pm • 1 hour 40 minutes

TOPIC: Aspects of Letting Go

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about two very different viewports into doing what you want to do and being who you want to be.

There's the non-fiddly value you earn from getting junk out of your head and into a place you trust (in this instance, OmniFocus location-based contexts).

Then, there's the "what the cuss?" situation faced by listener, "Evan," who's struggling with a work conundrum that's hard on the office freezer and his feelings.

How do you move toward doing the right thing in the face of a lot of wrong? And, how do you take care of the piddly crap that's made your brain such a messy white board?

Also, there's our new t-shirts, some boot scoots, lots of tickles, plus, that total tool who pushed Shlomo out. Don't even get Merlin started. Literally.


#72: Rocky Balboa Moment

June 18, 2012 at 3:30pm • 1 hour 27 minutes

TOPIC: Confidence, Courage, and the Problem with Thinking

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about why we may or may not feel confident to do stuff. How do other people seem to get it so easily, and where do they find the courage?

Well. You walk through The Forum, you check the mics, and you never let thinking get in your way.

Too much thinking? UNACCEPTABLE!

Dungeon. Seven years. No trials.


#71: Sorry to Lose You as a Son

June 11, 2012 at 12:30pm • 1 hour 39 minutes

TOPIC: The Problem with Passive-Aggression. If that's okay with you.

This week, Dan and Merlin apologize if they've made you unhappy with an episode about passive-aggressiveness, wussy non-communication, and non-apology apologies. But, maybe, that'll just have to be okay with them.

But, could you PLEASE take your tuna out of the fridge, pick up after your dog, make more coffee, change the toilet paper roll, and help with taking trash to the curb?

Thank You In Advance For Your Cooperation!
The Management


#70: Expectation Zero

June 5, 2012 at 2:00pm • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Recalibrating Expectations

This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about struggling with expectations. Everybody's expectations. Including yours.

Why it's worth recalibrating your own expectations, managing others' expectations, and accepting the impossibility of knowing—let alone meeting—the expectations of the entire world.

Because, that's monkeyballs.

We also learn that Merlin likes his buttons touched very gently.


#69: Seven Dwarfs of Bad Emotion

May 29, 2012 at 4:30pm • 1 hour 37 minutes

TOPIC: Boogers and Expectations

Are you making perfect reports when your boss just wants them on time? Are you making crème brûlée when you should be jumping in a trench? Are wangs and boogers causing problems at work?

This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about expectations – whether you're willing to or not – and the risks of expectations of partners, bosses, and kids.

How can you handle expectations? There aren't a lot of easy answers. As you'd probably expect.


#68: The Black Queen is Killing Me

May 21, 2012 at 4:00pm • 1 hour 14 minutes

TOPIC: Incentive, Inspiration, and Motivation

This week, Dan and Merlin are inspired to talk about the incentive and the motivation to make something.

Inspiration is marketed as something you're missing, but it has a short expiration date, and if you're more scared than uninspired then it doesn't matter how many pieces of candy you're offered. And what do you do if selling bottled water cozies affects your intrinsic motivation to make them?

Well. It's complicated. As usual.