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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#114: I'm Moving to FudgePacker

April 16, 2013 at 7:00PM • 1 hour 21 minutes

TOPIC: Quicksilver and the OS X App Launcher Landscape

This week, Dan triumphantly returns from two weeks of crippling illness. So, the boys ease their way back into the groove with a grab bag of great follow-up, some Adventure Time talk, and a longer discussion of popular OS X App launchers, including Quicksilver 1.0, LaunchBar, and Alfred 2.


#113: Entropy's Gonna Do Its Business

April 2, 2013 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 21 minutes

TOPIC: Drafts for iOS, and Who You Want to Be

This week, Dan and Merlin cover two very different topics.

First, there's a detailed discussion of one of Merlin's favorite iOS apps, Drafts, including a deep dive on the app's extraordinary interactions with everything from Twitter to calendars to Dropbox.

Second, Dan and Merlin have an A-plus conversation on the hardest question you’ll ask yourself this week: “Is this who I want to be?”


#112: Touching Pizza and Robotron

March 26, 2013 at 5:45PM • 1 hour 34 minutes

TOPIC: Choosing Your Forks.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about some of the deeper and more slippery issues behind changes in our career and life.

In particular, how do we go from a vague tickle to that feeling of full-blown intolerability that can end up driving a change? Are we looking backward at what we should be doing as we slavishly catalog our many petty aggrievements? Or, do we take two giant steps back and apply a cooler eye to what we really want to do next?

Even before we find our forks in the road, how can we know a big decision might or should be coming our way? And, how do we stay current on that never-ending need to accept and plan for the changes we never could have anticipated?

It's tough at 23, it's super-hard at 30, and, brother, is it ever murder at 50.

Sure, it's a little fruity, but, yeah: you need to write the story you really want to live. Rather than just cobbling together a flattering post-mortem on how you magically ended up where you are.


#111: You Get There Early for Pancake Day

March 19, 2013 at 4:15PM • 1 hour 18 minutes

TOPIC: Memory.

This week, Dan and Merlin try to tackle the complexities of memory.

Why do we remember things from childhood with unimpeachable detail, but then forget our own phone number or PIN code? How can the same person remember the name of everyone he's ever met, and then space a phone call a couple hours after it was scheduled? Why do we remember and why do we forget?

Unsurprisingly, few concrete answers appear, but there's plenty of lively conversation on savant syndrome, tactical memory aides, and the precise location of Merlin's pills.


#110: Okay, Then.

March 12, 2013 at 8:00AM • 1 hour 42 minutes

TOPIC: Stupidity.

This week, Dan and Merlin tackle stupidity. And, brother, there sure are a whole lot of flavors of stupid.

Are we really talking about being clueless, unaware, dumb, absent-minded, or just plain-old ignorant? Because they're actually pretty different animals.

Whether you're dropping your library book in the mailbox, leaving your iPad at home, following baseless medical advice, or doing whatever Dan did with his garage door (don't worry: the car is fine), it's really helpful to understand where your real problem really lives.

From a tactical standpoint, try some useful failsafes, rituals, and habits. But, at a higher level, learn to develop the curiosity to keep evolving. Stay open to how you might be wrong by always seeking out the smartest person you can find who disagrees with you.


#109: Two Paragraphs on Bourbon

March 5, 2013 at 2:15PM • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Not So Much

This week, Dan and Merlin eschew ““topic”” to freely discuss razors, beef, They Might Be Giants, prolapse, Genesis, dogs, Spider-Man (and -Womyn), pretender marteenies, truck butt, the lonely plaster casts of our youth, blind harmonicists, those awesome blue IKEA bags, ceviche, E.L.O., Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, bumping, hypoglycemia, how Merlin named his daughter, Hyman Roth, endive, and, of course, The Big Lebowski.

Then, they go and blow it all by unintentionally having a really useful discussion about Merlin's three key elements of optimal and sustainable workflows.


#108: What Can I Spray?

February 26, 2013 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 28 minutes

TOPIC: Shaving a Yak

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about The Hierarchy of Fiddling. When does self-improvement silently shade into navel-gazing, and how do we realize that it's happening?

Some fixes mean applying a fast change that produces outsized results (a true "life hack"). But, most of our more circuitous excursions into the world of ““productivity”” lead straight into a recursive black hole of lost time, sheer frustration, and soul-sucking existential onanism (let's call that one a "life whack").

Learn how to live with your dirty debit card, just satisfice with your dish-washing skills, and quit trying to solve non-problems with non-solutions.

Yes, learn the key commands, but, don't feel like you need to learn all the key commands. Iterate with mindful sanity.

And, like it says on the tin: always focus on how you'll get back to work.


#107: Pull Out Your Dingus

February 19, 2013 at 6:45PM • 1 hour 22 minutes

TOPIC: Compression

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about compression. What happens when we don't account for how long something really takes to do? And, worse still, what if we don't think about what has to happen before we can even start it?

If you find you're stressed-out, over-scheduled, under-resourced—and not particularly loving the things you're making—there's a pretty good chance you've become a victim of your own compression.

Acknowledge and understand the problem, and then learn how to avoid the classic pitfalls by falling in love with your calendar all over again.


#106: Enough Candy to Last Forever

February 12, 2013 at 4:30PM • 1 hour 36 minutes

TOPIC: Duplicates, duplicates, duplicates.

This week, Dan and Merlin conclude their discussion of media management by focusing on dealing with duplicates. Just so many duplicates.

Music, Photos, Contacts, and Finder files. It's all thorny business, but a canny combination of backup, cool apps, and paranoid discretion can make your digital life more manageable and fun.

Also, some handy tips on sharing files, hosting media, and finding a digital home for your comic collection.


#105: Fissures of Men

February 5, 2013 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

TOPIC: Cool stuff Merlin loves.

This week, Merlin is delirious and may be in a fugue state, so he and Dan talk about a bunch of cool apps and gadgets--stuff that Merlin likes and really recommends.

Special attention goes to Drafts for iOS, the Logitech K760 Bluetooth keyboard, Verbatim's Tuff 'n Tiny USB drive, Cortex Camera for iOS, Cobook Address Book, with many more suggestions along the way, including handy tips based on how Merlin uses each.