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.



#50: The Pork Soup Paradox

January 17, 2012 at 9:30PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

TOPIC: What to do if you fear a layoff.

Merlin and Dan talk about rumors of layoffs—when the fear gets you, and you start filing in the narrative with a panther, even if you're developing the best-of-breed cereal portal or have been in the newspaper's Accounts Payable department for 20 years.

What do you do at the fork in the road? Do you interview with The Bobs? Do you just grow up and ask what the hell's happening? Do you try to pray away the hurricane?

Or, do you just get tragically okay with being 10 times more terrified for 10 more years?

Yes: there are lessons from The Wire.


#49: The Field of Completion

January 10, 2012 at 9:45AM • 1 hour 41 minutes

John Gruber joins Merlin to talk about blog engines, Lego, bias, credibility, the project triangle, and (duh) Star Wars

Special guest John Gruber.


#48: An Abrupt Existential Jerk

January 3, 2012 at 6:45PM • 1 hour 17 minutes

TOPIC: How habits get made. 

Dan and Merlin are back for 2012 to discuss how habits are like little hairs or inertia or homeostasis or something. How we build habits, how they get built for us, and what we can learn about habits from making our daily coffee.


#47: Utter Failure & Hotel Steak

December 27, 2011 at 7:45PM • 1 hour 4 minutes

TOPIC: Resolving to skip the New Year's resolutions.

In the last episode of 2011, Merlin and Dan talk about fresh starts and modest changes rather than rehearsing for sucking. You don't need a calendar to tell you to change. Whether you want to give up nail biting, onanism, or drinking a gallon of vodka a day, you need a plan and a tolerance for failure. Plus, a little care never hurts.

How to do it? Keep it small, keep it time-limited, keep it action-oriented.

Happy New Year, jackals. We love you.


#46: Not Counting the Mezzanine

December 20, 2011 at 5:00PM • 1 hour 23 minutes

Topic: The Meta-Distractions of "Minimalism"

This week, Merlin and Dan get all "Zen" about bias and minimalism. Your background won't get any blacker, so stop burning cycles arguing on the internet or worrying about what other people think or how minimal you are. It's not about the bird skeletons, lion skins or barefoot girls. Unless that's what works. Just make sure it really works. 


#45: Finagling the Tree Bag

December 13, 2011 at 5:45PM • 1 hour 9 minutes

Topic: The Narcissism of Small Differences

This week, Merlin has a quiz for Dan to determine whether Ben Franklin, "The Immigrant Song," or Quantum Mechanics has the most cultural impact--as well as his teasing out Dan's go-to for uninstalling Android apps.

Paying attention to the same degree you care goes nicely with keeping a sense of humor. Especially about those small differences regarding couch cushions, pink spaceships, and Sgt. Pepper's.

The answers are Moby Dick, Julian calendars, ZoSo, chigger bites, and--yes--The Greater Nerd Theory.


#44: Circuitous Bridge of My Own Design

December 7, 2011 at 7:30AM • 1 hour 13 minutes

Topic: Moving from dumb nouns to awesome verbs.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the problem with Capital Letter Nouns; how real and specific verbs will always trounce Excellence, Effectiveness, and Mission Statements--even in the Best-of-Breed Pursuance of Five-Nines Quality Across The Enterprise.

They also look at transitive and intransitive flavors of "feasance," finding your keyboard's Excellence Key, opting-in for The Johnson Treatment, lancing that actionable boil, and (as ever) shooting the obvious fish in the obvious barrel.


#43: I Return Null

November 30, 2011 at 8:30AM • 58 minutes

Topic: Asking questions in order to find better questions

This week, Dan and Merlin pick up their discussion of asking better questions and how sometimes the point of asking a question isn't to get an answer, but to get another, even better question.

How do you do this? Blundell Chains, hypotheses, the clackity noise, and iteration.


#42: Coconut Headphones

November 22, 2011 at 4:45PM • 1 hour 16 minutes

This week Dan and Merlin talk about asking good questions instead of massaging your real problem until it fits the comforting solution you found on the cover of a magazine.


#41: Carpal Tunnel Diem

November 15, 2011 at 6:00PM • 1 hour 21 minutes

Dan and Merlin talk more about why we get stuck and how might re-think getting "unstuck." Looking at process over product, remembering how you got here, and getting clear about what you're really trying to make.

Merlin also has some updates and tips for your iTunes Matching and your Google searching.