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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#90: Quit!™

October 23, 2012 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Sleep and How to Get It

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about sleep—why we need it, why most of us don't get enough of it, and why we all strain to find a million excuses for perpetually walking around like a sad zombie.

Chock-a-block with painful personal anecdotes, horrible cautionary tales, and scary hand-waving about Recent Medical Science, your hosts make their best case for taking your own sleep more seriously. Now.

Also, loaded with tips on how to sleep better, with a heavy emphasis on a wonderful iOS app called, "Sleep Cycle."

Pretty good for our last episode. (Guys, we were kidding! KIDDING!)


#89: Burlap Sack Full of Oranges

October 16, 2012 at 1:00PM • 1 hour 31 minutes

TOPIC: Programming Your Kid's Danger Room.

This week, Dan and Merlin discuss the parenthood racket: the advice and expectations, the doubt and the fear, the assessment, the concentric circles, the snow cones.

Parenting means programming a Danger Room that teaches you and the kid to handle the hovering, the hitting, the losing, and the play structure.


#88: So Many Reasons to Cry

October 9, 2012 at 9:30AM • 1 hour 51 minutes

TOPIC: Finding Grit.

This week, Dan and Merlin return to a popular topic from last week: grit.

Why is it we stick with some things but totally abandon so many others? Why'd Merlin give up on learning "Little Brown Jug" on the trombone, then double-down on nailing "Pinball Wizard" on guitar? How come Dan got so good at programming, but can't kick a damned football to save his life? Is there a framework for understanding why we remember hit points, don't travel, can't draw, and forget why every good boy deserves fudge?

Along the way, Merlin accidentally—grudgingly—reveals that he actually knows things about sportsball, Dan breaks down the exhilarating rewards of immediate feedback, and both hosts wonder how Mariano Rivera can keep his cool after giving up a two-run homer.

Also, there's a pseudo-interesting rathole on why Merlin may or may not start spending more time with App.net.


#87: Nothing to Declare But My Coconuts

October 2, 2012 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 31 minutes

TOPIC: Grit, Confidence, and Intuition.

This week, Dan and Merlin begin a conversation on what researchers and educators are learning about why students of all ages do or don't succeed. Yes, it's about intelligence and other cognitive skills, but it's also about tenacity, courage, self-restraint, and resolve.

It's really about grit.

See our show notes for lots of links to the stuff that inspired our topic, but definitely tune in for Merlin's slight addendum to the formula: mixing in our growing confidence in our own intuition.


#86: The Talmud of Claremont

September 25, 2012 at 1:15PM • 1 hour 42 minutes

TOPIC: Anxious about the Change

This week Merlin updates Dan about his schedule changes. They're going to come, but it's probably the anxiety, not the change, that is the problem. Take heart, it may be the change that you need.

While you're at it, take the opportunity to plan your buffers and ramp up times. Your schedule will work better, your vacation may be less stressful, your pie will stay alive.

Bonus: Dan and Merlin's comic book recommendations for new readers.


#85: Schrödinger's Soap Holder

September 18, 2012 at 12:30PM • 1 hour 22 minutes

TOPIC: One Operational Paper Towel; One Safety Paper Towel.

This week, Dan and Merlin discuss how to use a public restroom.

There's some other stuff, too. But, yeah. Mostly Dan and Merlin discuss how to use a public restroom.


#84: Every Genie is an Actuary

September 11, 2012 at 1:30PM • 1 hour 43 minutes

TOPIC: Superpowers, Madness, and the Pursuit of Interesting Problems

Dan and Merlin talk about the superpowers you have and can't control as well as the demons and drivers that our heroes have and can't control. How sometimes we find ourselves craving the screaming in someone else's head. Because, we surely do love and revere our Beautiful Losers and Genius Lunatics.

Entered into evidence: Hunter S. Thompson, The Incredible Hulk, Sylvia Plath, Brian Wilson, Nightcrawler, Van Gogh, Syd Barrett, Tom Waits, Robert Lowell, Howard Hughes, and Corporate Stooges (n.b.: Dan said that; not Merlin).

The upshot? Try not to get too obsessed with someone else's ether in the convertible or, for that matter, the cake in your own conference room.

Get excited about constantly releasing that "better version of yourself"—and make the world a happy beneficiary of your own particular madness.


#83: Way of the Future

September 4, 2012 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 32 minutes

TOPIC: Obsessions, Compulsions, Obsessions, and Compulsions. Also, Obsessions—and Compulsions.

This week, Dan and Merlin lick the doorknob five times, tap their heads with their shoes, and ponder the problem of obsessions and compulsions.


#82: Blue Food in Your Refrigerator

August 27, 2012 at 3:45PM • 1 hour 26 minutes

TOPIC: Capture, Contracts, and Mapping the Territory.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about keeping an honest calendar and ensuring you regularly review your "contracts" with yourself.

Chock-a-block with practical COM-ponents for making sure your map is up to date with the territory.

¿Spanish question marks? ¡Si!

Zibba-zabba! Fax my gal!


#81: LAMP for Your Productivity

August 20, 2012 at 3:30PM • 1 hour 29 minutes

TOPIC: Honesty and Sociopathy Go to Work

Merlin and Dan talk about the cultural divide between you and your work. Coping with work is a little like being a sociopath so you better make sure you're taking away the right lessons and being honest about the right things. Anything else is a little dishonest.

You don't need to quit your job, but you made want to at least resign your certainty.

Nice!™