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.



#70: Expectation Zero

June 5, 2012 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Recalibrating Expectations

This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about struggling with expectations. Everybody's expectations. Including yours.

Why it's worth recalibrating your own expectations, managing others' expectations, and accepting the impossibility of knowing—let alone meeting—the expectations of the entire world.

Because, that's monkeyballs.

We also learn that Merlin likes his buttons touched very gently.


#69: Seven Dwarfs of Bad Emotion

May 29, 2012 at 4:30PM • 1 hour 37 minutes

TOPIC: Boogers and Expectations

Are you making perfect reports when your boss just wants them on time? Are you making crème brûlée when you should be jumping in a trench? Are wangs and boogers causing problems at work?

This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about expectations – whether you're willing to or not – and the risks of expectations of partners, bosses, and kids.

How can you handle expectations? There aren't a lot of easy answers. As you'd probably expect.


#68: The Black Queen is Killing Me

May 21, 2012 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 14 minutes

TOPIC: Incentive, Inspiration, and Motivation

This week, Dan and Merlin are inspired to talk about the incentive and the motivation to make something.

Inspiration is marketed as something you're missing, but it has a short expiration date, and if you're more scared than uninspired then it doesn't matter how many pieces of candy you're offered. And what do you do if selling bottled water cozies affects your intrinsic motivation to make them?

Well. It's complicated. As usual.


#67: Ad Hoc Bra

May 15, 2012 at 3:00PM • 1 hour 20 minutes

TOPIC: Trying On The Change

This week, Dan and Merlin (who might not have mentioned he didn't sleep much) discuss the balance between placing nickel bets versus going all-in—or at least thinking all-in.

You might be talking yourself into stasis or change, but if you don't really try it on first, you may find out the techno and combat boots are nothing compared to living under incontinent grackles.


#66: Horseradish on My Raccoon

May 7, 2012 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 23 minutes

TOPIC: The Pete Campbell Problem

Ever notice how you never really "arrive?" Or, have you ever noticed that right when you think you've "arrived," you don't stay arrived for very long—but now have a whole big bunch of new stuff to do? Yeah, us too.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about expectations, the wrong kinds of ambition, and the unquenchable lust for prestige and respect. Good practitioners practice, great leaders lead, and crummy managers just get their fingers all brown from digging around in your chocolate bag.

How to see yourself more as your team does—and less as That Guy who deserves more everything.

Because there will always be more "everything."


#65: A Light Dusting of Life

May 3, 2012 at 1:45PM • 1 hour 30 minutes

TOPIC: Stressing Out About Stress

Dan and Merlin talk about what happens when stress meets stress, anxiety feeds anxiety, and 10 guys maybe try to jump you in the woods.

Which kinds of stress are simply unavoidable? Which ones are addictive? Which ones can be tolerated? And, yes, which kinds of stresses can be vanquished by firing your boss?


#64: Frozen Poster

April 23, 2012 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

TOPIC: The Surprising Problems of "Doing What You Love"

Merlin has some follow up on Agency: be in control of what you give away and why you charge what you charge, and Dan is interested in what happens when you stop loving what you love when you do it as a job.

There are no guarantees, so don't mistake the Federalist Papers for Constitutional Law, and if you miss the signs you shouldn't be sailing, you'll just end up vomiting in your bucket hat.

You're not going suddenly arrive and do what you love. You get there through course correction: look back at all the ugly birdhouses and look ahead for the next step toward building a home.


#63: Bold with the Scissors

April 16, 2012 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 20 minutes

TOPIC: Agency, Independence, and Outing Your Makebelieve "Partners."

Dan and Merlin return to the topic of agency.

Who's allowed to speak and act on your behalf? And, what happens when you discover people who've unilaterally decided by fiat to speak and act on your behalf?

Well. If your work (and your business) matters to you, you tell them to knock it off.

How to reclaim your own stuff, set your own terms, and fire all the non-silent non-partners of the lucrative Free Compliment Industry.


#62: Cultural Molasses

April 9, 2012 at 3:45PM • 1 hour 2 minutes

TOPIC: Karmasucks, No-Sayers, and Black and White Thinking

Dan and Merlin consider the karmasucks and black and white thinking that lead to inertia and a culture of derision.

Anyone can laugh at an agenda, and it only takes one turd in the punchbowl to ruin the party, so don't ask permission, ask yes or no questions, and keep your judge behind your explorer.


#61: I Handed Him My Luke

April 2, 2012 at 4:15PM • 1 hour 9 minutes

Dan and Merlin talk about Dancing Han Solo, going to college in Florida, and developing smarter patterns for Getting Things Diaried.

Whether you're calling collect, person-to-person, or station-to-station, it's time to get serious, get realistic, and just get it on the calendar.

Send the invite, work those Telephone Thursdays, and make that call E6W ("Every 6 Weeks"). Pick the system that supports your intentions. Then use it.