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.



#437: The Credit Section

August 6, 2019 at 2:45PM • 1 hour 5 minutes

Dan and Merlin explore the complexities of personal style. Not personal style as in fashion, but as in preferences, identity, and modes of interaction. How do we let others know how we are?

How do we derive a sense of what works best for us, and why is it such a shameful struggle to effectively communicate that to others? What do AirPods, Snapchat, and Bloomberg Terminals potentially have in common?

And, would it be cool if I just listen to this podcast instead of talking about my blouse and the weather?


#436: Better Than a Lipstick

July 30, 2019 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 10 minutes

DISCUSSED: the admirable candor of B.B. King; the simple joys of the Ordinary Night; movies that are or are not dated and how that affects your enjoyment; how sci-fi seemed to mostly miss the internet; our embarrassment of media options; tech in media and what it means for plot stuff; technology adoption curves are definitely speeding up; doing everything you can not to use your phone as a phone; more generational stuff; how time and context changes our perception; should they take all the smoking out of movies and tv?; remember: you're not making errors—you're adding information; and, finally, Dan has an exciting announcement and a wet notebook.


#435: Scanner of Horizons

July 23, 2019 at 3:00PM • 1 hour 14 minutes

DISCUSSED: kindness; eyeglasses, at length—including eyeglasses indignities, discounts, and injuries; a renewed surfeit of dingalings, fake friends, and a dumb podcast hit piece; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener question on getting stressed about personal quantization.


#434: Grist for an Unnecessary Mill

July 16, 2019 at 1:00PM • 1 hour 13 minutes

Show notes are short this week because Merlin had to go buy contrast paints for his figs.

Main topic is speculating about speculation.


#433: The Muscle of Worry

July 2, 2019 at 5:00PM • 1 hour 8 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan has found a terrific solution for his son's iPad case; on the benefits (and challenges) of getting away from our devices for a while; listener recommendations for YouTube keyboard commands, a book about cities, and some Disney scholarship; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener's question about "circular thoughts."


#432: Fingerspace Pollution

June 25, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 15 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin is a little hoarse; but what's an actual pony versus an actual little horse?; there's a lot of sadness and housing problems in the Hundred Acre Wood; the challenges of recommending starter media; the further challenges of being a media super-fan; (and how this relates to not seeing The Flintstones and stealing a copy of Fight Club from Blockbuster Video); Florida is hot; may everyone live long enough to feel bad for saying something really stupid on a podcast; is Piglet a small pig or just a pig baby?; Dan needs your help to find Cash a durable iPad case and keyboard solution; Merlin needs your help understanding the logic of keyboard media keys; to Dan, Piglet was always a baby pig; then, there's some follow-up on Disney parks; Dan again threatens to permanently ruin Disney for you, but he promises to clearly bracket it; and, finally, Dan has had it with people stealing flu valor. Just stop it, people.


#431: Costly Branded Waiting

June 20, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 41 minutes

First and most importantly, Dan is back! Woo!

Second, now, listen: please bear with me, and do not leave. Because, when I say we talked mostly about Disney—and especially Disney properties—it's way more interesting than you'd think. Or, so we hope.

Essentially, Walt Disney World in particular has the control, data, and means to be extremely good at resource management, and that's just fascinating to think about.

There's also some thank-you's, as well as some podcast recommendations, plus a response to a listener's question about choosing to use Apple's native apps.


#430: Shiny Red Cleric

June 14, 2019 at 2:00PM • 59 minutes

Dan's away this week, so Merlin tries going it alone.

Topics include lessons from painting D&D minifigs, listener letters, and some recommendations.

Feel better soon Dan; we need you!


#429: A Seer of Trees

June 4, 2019 at 9:00AM • 1 hour 32 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a catastrophic off-by-one-week error; Roderick's June is very triggering to your hosts; sometimes, it's nice to be exposed to stuff you didn't expect, but…; at a certain point in life, you mostly just see trees of inconvenience and risk; this leads to a long (and surprisingly pretty good) meditation on FOMO, acceptance, and not pretending to be a person you never actually were; Dan helps Merlin unpack a scene near his workplace; Merlin gets in the weeds about Roger Deakins, Torquay, and two different Richards Burton; then, there's a brief side trip into the reboot of Nick Fury; and, finally the boys answer listener questions about taking notes in college and feeling resistance to completing tasks.


#428: Prepare for Draculas

May 28, 2019 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

DISCUSSED: Nobody got enough sleep last night, but they're gonna power through anyhow; your hosts fawn over the amazing Chernobyl miniseries; various hardware mute button options are discussed; Merlin can't draw but is very excited about making pictures on an iPad; Dan is looking forward to seeing more Olyphant; your hosts address a listener's question about their "everyday carry," but honestly mostly end up talking about bags; also, you really need a bag in a bag in a bag; and, finally Merlin has an admittedly privileged aspiration involving keys.