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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#97: Pope of the Office

December 11, 2012 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 44 minutes

TOPIC: Using GTD to sanely and intelligently decide what to do, and when, and where.

This week, Dan and Merlin continue their discussion of David Allen's Getting Things Done system.

Hopping over the basic workflow and setup (you'll definitely need the book for that), this is all about doing—leveraging the horizontal and vertical axes of GTD to intuitively choose exactly the right task at any given moment.

Regardless of interruptions, regardless of unexpected change, and regardless of what you're mindfully not doing.

David Allen calls GTD, "The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," and this is the episode where you'll find out how having put this system in place can yield astronomical improvements in how your actual things get done.

Also included: a teaser for January's "iTunes management" series, plus recommendations for the three best comic series Merlin read this week.


#96: Compensatory Muscles

December 4, 2012 at 3:00PM • 1 hour 41 minutes

TOPIC: A Better System for Dealing with Life's "Stuff"

This week, Dan and Merlin continue their discussion of David Allen's book, Getting Things Done.


#95: She's Five for a Living

November 27, 2012 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 30 minutes

TOPIC: Intro to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”

This week, Dan and Merlin start a long-overdue three-part storyline on David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.[1]

How do you unwad that giant crapball of stuff you call a life? The answer is simple, but it’s not so easy. You need a trusted system in which to collect, process, review, and—yes—do all the things that matter.

Getting Things Done is inarguably one of the best and most influential self-help books of all time for a good reason: it’s a candid, realistic, and painfully honest way to get out of your hole, and then stay out.

This week, we start with the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of GTD, as well as the myriad and thorny problems it can help you address.

So, pick up your own copy of GTD, read it through, then join us for a detailed tour of the system that changed Merlin’s game and helped jumpstart his online career.


  1. ©DavidCo, 2001.  ↩


#94: A False Sun

November 20, 2012 at 5:00PM • 1 hour 31 minutes

TOPIC: How to be a proper list-maker

This week, Dan and Merlin discuss the pros and cons of lighting your environment properly, how we fall into bad list making habits and how to solve these issues. Also, Merlin makes some sounds for your enjoyment.


#93: 67 Points of Articulation

November 13, 2012 at 4:15PM • 1 hour 36 minutes

TOPIC: Florida, Education, and Peaking

This week, Dan and Merlin continue their purging personal odyssey through the state of Florida. Isolation, education, and a parting admonition not to throw your cap in the air.

Also, for the comic nerds, Merlin recommends checking out the exciting new stuff happening with "Marvel NOW!"


#92: The Florida Episode

November 6, 2012 at 9:15PM • 1 hour 18 minutes

TOPIC: Florida.

Hinted at since Episode 1—and repeatedly threatened nearly every week since—here, at last: The Florida Episode.

The heat, the driving, the isolation, the driving, the white driveways, the early-bird specials, the menacing parking-lot violence, the driving, the people, the stop lights, the gates, the urology clinics, the driving, the short pants, the driving, and much MUCH more.

In part one of what will surely be an epic, multi-episode arc, Dan and Merlin finally start coming to terms with their undistinguished youths in the Sunshine State.


#91: Compiling Stallman From Source

October 30, 2012 at 11:00AM • 1 hour 10 minutes

TOPIC: The tech you want, and the tech you can live with.

On our second Last Show Ever™, Merlin and Dan talk about parenting, Gatsby hats, note taking and sharing, the Techno-Organic virus, and more.


#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.