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 & Dan Benjamin.
350: Stacking Stones and Inspiration
Nov 14 • 102 min
TOPIC: Integrity and Fear. This week your hosts discuss: sandwiches, solar power, some recent movies and what makes them memorable (or not), the glory of Edgar Wright, fun movie commentaries, Dan’s rowing machine, big changes for Chairman Bendis, a cool…
349: The Kid Who Never Won Anything
Nov 7 • 104 min
TOPIC: Trials, Trophies, and Trying Harder. This week, the boys arrive from either the past or future to talk about Dan’s spoon problem, the refuse racket, the slog of incremental improvement, the perils of black and white thinking, folding paper seven…
348: Optionitis
Oct 31 • 81 min
Dan and Merlin talk about Halloween, the Chromebook, Apple, WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux), and hair removal.
347: Beast Coast
Oct 24 • 89 min
TOPIC: Too much ambiguity in time. This week, your hosts discuss hot weather adjustments, Merlin’s Skype woes, the state of the union on Skype replacement contenders, ruminations on Mac troubleshooting, the fraught future of retail comic book stores, a…
346: Disagreement of the Genders
Oct 23 • 79 min
TOPIC: Turns out. This week, the boys talk about audio problems, hot dogs, kegeling, Merlin’s next meet-up, Tsum Tsums, comic suggestions, Battle of the Sexes, excellent recent TV series, All the President’s Men, the app Pacifica, warming buns, Dan’s…
345: Chow Mein Hour
Oct 10 • 81 min
TOPIC: Surface Tension. This week, Dan and Merlin discuss names of cities in Florida, wireless neckbands, elliptical bikes, chore systems (and parental withholding), iOS battery life, canny Mac laptop battery monitoring, how battery cycles work, Todd, and…
344: The Microwave Moment
Oct 3 • 100 min
TOPIC: You’re not supposed to pet the car. This week, Dan and Merlin discuss Nest Cam updates, Ring doorbell tracking, Echo family additions, HDMI questions, the fraught landscape of 4K HDR TV stuff, and how shopping makes Merlin feel kind of vulnerable.…
343: Lo Sierra Mucho
Sep 26 • 82 min
TOPIC: Publix Hustle This week, Dan and Merlin talk about grocery store promotions, transactional help, the racket of school photos, Occam’s Razor for public schools, Time Machine troubleshooting, the scourge of The Crackle, and BMO the salesman. The boys…
342: Ultraman Scenario
Sep 19 • 81 min
After some Followup and Front Matter, your hosts dive into iOS 11. (Spoilers: it’s really good.)
341: Rich Boy Phone
Sep 12 • 96 min
This week, Dan and Merlin convene to talk about today’s big Apple event.
340: It’s-a Me, Dan!
Sep 5 • 92 min
This week, Dan has useful updates on Windows backup options and answers questions about building a Hackintosh. Both of your hosts extoll the virtues of their new Apple TV remote case dinguses. The big topic this week is Nintendo Switch, and Dan has a lot…
339: True Love Weighs
Aug 29 • 86 min
TOPIC: Don’t provoke Dan. This week, Dan and Merlin (once again) complain about what works and what just kiiiinda works with smart devices. Who’s winning the voice control game, and who’s struggling to play catchup? Ecosystems! Next up, the boys talk…
338: Ambush Site
Aug 22 • 86 min
TOPIC: It’s like elevator buttons. This week, Dan and Merlin talk a lot about komodo dragons. Also, homework sucks, seed codes rule, and @Movesapp drools. How do we get so scared about things? How cool did flying used to be? Your hosts respond to listener…
337: Cognitive Bottleneck
Aug 18 • 71 min
TOPIC: How do you know when you’re legitimately overwhelmed? This episode, your hosts catch up on Florida, schedule and sleep consistency, ladders vs. walls, travel mania, and the fraught landscape of personal device security. Your hosts respond to…
336: Town Centre Plaza Spot
Aug 18 • 65 min
TOPIC: Keep your hand away from the giant’s mouth! This week, Dan and Merlin look back on summer and forward to the new school year. Also, some excellent ad hoc Business Analysis about the past and future of malls and other retail outposts. Your hosts…
335: Personal Assistant to Darius
Aug 1 • 92 min
TOPIC: Start treating yourself like a dummy today. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about iOS 11, the trade-offs of running betas, and waking up to how we’re using devices differently. Merlin has thoughts on the usefulness of the will to live. Dan has a new…
334: The Little White One
Jul 25 • 75 min
TOPIC: Mapping Your Focus and Motivation This week, Dan talks about a cool new addition to his service, and Merlin interviews him about how he likes to choose, plan, and evolve the features of an app. Two questions this week, both from…
333: Your Whiteboards Will Not Survive Reality
Jul 18 • 80 min
TOPIC: Help! My bosses are doing a really dumb thing! This week, Dan and Merlin help a listener and his youngster get started with Spider-Man. Also, hey, support your Local Comic Shop! Listener Molly asks how to help prevent a terrible, damaging change…
332: Piggybacking on Anger
Jul 11 • 100 min
TOPIC: Making the spice flow. This week, Dan and Merlin dive into the thriving ecosystem of Florida’s ad hoc roofing and lawn care professionals. Merlin gets The Boeing Contract, and Dan leaves a check under the mat. Your hosts admit they don’t really…
331: Hidden in Wigs
Jul 7 • 91 min
TOPIC: Time Tetris in Difficult Mode This week, Dan and Merlin do a VERY deep dive on one listener’s question about life with an excruciating shared Google Calendar. Merlin, unsurprisingly, has a lot to say about this. No. Like, really. A lot a lot. Other…
330: Frowny Face for You
Jun 27 • 61 min
TOPIC: Drawing effective water. In this week’s tight and bright episode, Dan and Merlin do dome followup on food bars and CBD oil, then discuss how to get better at letting people just enjoy what they like. In this week’s main topic, your hosts address…
329: Stop all the OTUS
Jun 20 • 111 min
TOPIC: Thirty cable boxes. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about beloved late night talk shows, Planet of the Apes, and the future of TV. Dan introduces his new thought technology about “Protoforms.” Your hosts also respond to listener questions about…
328: Donkey in a Biscuit
Jun 13 • 103 min
TOPIC: Asterisks and Question Marks. This week, Dan and Merlin cover corgis (and other pets), asking for lettuce wraps, high-floor sandwiches, bread in a tube, John Wick (no spoilers), and the wonderful comic infographics of Kate Willaert. There is some…
327: Slightly Semitic Bird
Jun 6 • 86 min
TOPIC: She was only 15 years old! This week kicks off with some thoughts on yesterday’s WWDC Keynote and some potentially promising signs for Apple’s future. Dan declares YouTube videos from The Trip to be the greatest thing Merlin has ever shown him, and…
326: The Ronald McDonald of Feeds
May 30 • 97 min
TOPIC: “The results have been increbidle.” This week, Dan and Merlin opine about various Apple feelings and wondering where the heck things are going. Merlin is sanguine. Merlin is mad at KFC, and Dan reminds us how great 1974 was for movies. Finally,…
325: The Real Celebrity Chefs of the Hollywood Hills
May 23 • 82 min
TOPIC: Again with the motivation. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about what motivates the companies who make set-top boxes vs. the providers of the content for those dinguses. What attracts fans to a given platform, and why are we getting so resistant to…
324: Delivery Status Not Updated
May 16 • 92 min
TOPIC: Odds ‘N Sods In this sprawling “odds ‘n sods” episode, Dan and Merlin discuss: superheroes, scary movie trailers, (yes, more) egregious package delivery drama, customer service Buddhism, some excellent kids books, updates on the pretty good Hulu…
323: A Horse Named Chili
May 9 • 85 min
TOPIC: Lady in a tube. This week, Dan and Merlin unexpectedly end up doing a pretty deep dive on Amazon voice products and the evolving ecosystem around them. Which is way more interesting than it sounds. Deep dive.
322: The Passive Voice of Water
May 2 • 84 min
TOPIC: Curiosity before fear. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the experience of Apple stores and repairs, The Handmaid’s Tale, Dan’s invertebrate-sensing skills, and some follow-up on “look left, go left.” Listener Molly asks about how to become a…
321: Need Some Velocity
Apr 27 • 88 min
TOPIC: Velocity! This week Dan and Merlin talk about lice, Kenny Rogers, strange memory phenomena, an intriguing new oil, and popcorn nugs pricing. A question from Listener Ben leads to suggestions for finding velocity.
320: Log Cabin Portal
Apr 25 • 109 min
TOPIC: Triangles Everywhere! This week, Dan and Merlin shuck and/or jive about stealing, Publix, airlines, driver’s ed, douchebagerié, Twitter bots, and more. Main topic this week is a question from Listener Brian about project management. Merlin expounds…
319: Contract with the Universe
Apr 11 • 86 min
TOPIC: Oh my GOD, this is torture. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about—amongst other odds and sods— the Mean FedEx Guy, the weird future of gig economies, and Adventure Time. Then, there’s some handy tips on how to leverage iOS Accessibility settings for…
318: Emotional Goggles
Apr 5 • 72 min
After some brief shucky-jivey, the boys resign themselves to discussing the big Apple announcement. They ponder why and how the message was delivered in the way it was as well as what it means. Dan has thoughts on modularization and Merlin reveals a new…
317: Zero Gun Salute
Mar 31 • 80 min
After some very important follow-up, and more than a little shucking and jiving, your hosts answer questions from listeners. This is a good one!
316: Corona MacGuffin
Mar 21 • 71 min
This week, Dan and Merlin have one of their beloved “odds and sods” episodes. Something for everyone in this diverse and bewildering episode. “Same day delivery!”
315: The Nakamichi Deal
Mar 14 • 96 min
TOPIC: “Delivery Attempted.” This week, Merlin struggles with his coffee-making options, and Dan recalls his days of fishing lures. USPS deliveries, several TV shows, and Wolverine’s disturbing bone claws are also discussed. Listener Jackson writes in to…
314: Which Fellini You Want to Be
Mar 7 • 101 min
TOPIC: “Remember this film is supposed to be a comedy.” This week: Dan struggles with his progressive lenses, but he really liked the movie, Logan. Merlin’s daughter has made four piles, and he finally accepts that he really should be watching more movies…
313: Parents, Old People, and Perverts
Feb 28 • 94 min
TOPIC: You can’t perfect life. This week opens with the carnage of today’s Amazon S3 problems and why so much of the internet seems broken. A brief history of outage monitoring is provided and a praxis for improving the process is proposed. Dan and Merlin…
312: Snake Eating Its Own Goodwill
Feb 21 • 98 min
TOPIC: You’re living in the future! This week, Merlin is in a bit of a tizzy as he tries to make coffee, redo his ads, and change his productivity system at the same time. Todoist and the evolving landscape of task apps are discussed. Dan likes Trello and…
311: A Fair Eight
Feb 14 • 73 min
TOPIC: Alice hopes to hear from you. This week’s episode is packed—literally, packed—with useful tips, tricks, and even a crazy challenge. Psyching yourself into falling asleep, learning how to breathe, using your iPhone’s secret trackpad, and a gauntlet…
310: Nominally Mine
Feb 7 • 79 min
TOPIC: My place is here—I fight with you! This week, Dan and Merlin cover a meetup announcement, Merlin’s Les Mis obsession, Dan’s new Hackintosh Method, and the Benjamin Family’s slippery bar problem. Merlin advocates for “The Tiny Life Improvement…
309: Hard Pass
Jan 31 • 77 min
TOPIC: Celebrating your successful failures. This week, Dan and Merlin kick off with discussion of night bears, the ascendance of Netflix, and some very nice emails from listeners. Merlin also shares an important life hack for Twitter. Merlin brings in a…
308: When Does the Fork Go on the Sat?
Jan 24 • 98 min
TOPIC: Act like you’re somebody that you like. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the evolution of voice recognition and touch interfaces and reminisce on the early days of making the turtle move. Dan brings in the topic of how fears of both failure and…
307: #43 on The Ladder of Kindness
Jan 17 • 98 min
TOPIC: Youth is the aberration. This week, Dan provides updates on his Hackintosh project, which leads to a discussion of finding reviews and advice with context. The hosts realize, acknowledge, and quickly move past their program’s 6th anniversary,…
306: Sunday Pant
Jan 10 • 107 min
TOPIC: Reframing the conversation with yourself. This week, Merlin talks about his weird mortgage ads and compliments the literally fancy pants he got from the silver underpants people. Suggestions are offered for running a dehumidifier in a “smart home.”…
305: Quadruple Down
Jan 3 • 89 min
TOPIC: This is a feeling I’m feeling. This week, your hosts look at the announcement of Dish’s new Air TV box, along with the rapidly evolving landscape for cord-cutters. Also, fantasies of monk holes are entertained. The big topic this week is a…
304: The 2016 Compilation Episode
Dec 31, 2016 • 61 min
This is the Best of 2016 Compilation Episode, featuring your favorite moments of the show over the last 12 months. Each clip was suggested and submitted by you, our amazing listeners. Have a great new year!
303: A Liver Runs Through It
Dec 20, 2016 • 92 min
TOPIC: Is Tim firing us? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the challenge of dealing with email that’s only kind of from a real person. There’s some follow-up on Apple and wishing they’d just give us a “Get out of here!” Merlin recommends some podcasts…
302: Rabbi for the Rabbi
Dec 13, 2016 • 75 min
This week, the boys talk about slicing sand, unboxing videos, Overwatch, and some recommended TV viewing. Odds and sods, as you say. Main topic is follow-up re: listener feedback on recent Apple conversations.
301: Not on My Timeline
Dec 6, 2016 • 101 min
TOPIC: Vaio Life! This week, Dan and Merlin respond to listener feedback and talk about the tightrope walk of caffeine consumption. Merlin suggests a new AudioDharma talk, which leads to a discussion of whether you have to be an X to learn about Y.…
300: A Room Where I Don’t Matter
Dec 1, 2016 • 111 min
TOPIC: Kipple and Boomboxes This week Dan and Merlin start by talking about purging junk and answering listener feedback about kids and phones and teachers dealing with email. Main topic this week is whither Apple? Based on how the company is evolving,…
299: Unhook from the Comparison
Nov 22, 2016 • 74 min
TOPIC: Your “backstage” vs. their “onstage” This week, Merlin shares some useful thoughts (via Patrick Rothfuss) on being careful about how we compare ourselves to others. The hosts also share some terrific listener suggestions for fantasy books for kids.…
298: Night Boot for Big Beef
Nov 15, 2016 • 85 min
This week, Dan and Merlin do another of their beloved Odds ‘n Sods episodes, with tons of great recommendations for movies, TV, apps, services, and nighttime medical appliances.
297: It Takes Craftspersonship
Nov 11, 2016 • 88 min
This week, Dan and Merlin are a little out of sorts, so, after some chat and followup, they talk about some of the things that make them happy. Plus, awesome Mac key commands.
296: Surely You Can’t be Sirius
Nov 1, 2016 • 103 min
TOPIC: Leaving Dropbox Vegas Merlin survives a sleepover, and Dan has a concern about Dropbox.
295: I’m Not Talkin’ for Clapping
Oct 25, 2016 • 79 min
Dan’s still a little under the weather What home automation is good at right now (and what it mostly isn’t) Updates on Hiya and call-blocking apps not working so much Merlin is getting pretty good at making Trump hands Hey! Follow-up and listener…
294: Sufficiently Advanced Friendship
Oct 18, 2016 • 108 min
TOPIC: How to pester people responsibly. Dan’s a little under the weather. Maybe kids should be in balls. Who knows? “Wrap a hot towel around your head.” Westworld. It’s definitely a thing. Follow-up… TaskPaper 3.5 is awesome. Yes. There are good board…
293: The Frame for Our Relationship
Oct 11, 2016 • 109 min
TOPIC: The Minimum Viable Waste of Time. Some awesome odds and sods, a great new Markdown editor for OS X, and a main topic on dealing with those aggressive email follow-up people. Dan’s Concern™ regarding his annoying smoke detectors Why things seem to…
292: Rat King of Crush
Oct 4, 2016 • 72 min
TOPIC: A Surfeit of Merlin Mannsplaining. This week, Dan and Merlin produce an undisputed instaclassic odds and sods episode. When technology makes you feel crazy. Are retweets endorsements? Universal New Yorker captions. Cursed Images is amazing. Vatican…
291: Three Healthy Holes
Sep 27, 2016 • 91 min
TOPIC: The Unreliable Narrator of You This week, Dan and Merlin talk about weather, compost, small changes, plus some Sling TV followup. The main topic involves Merlin helping Dan sanely enter the Philips Hue Light ecosystem. It’s not just for nerds any…
290: Table Scraps for Cable Cutters
Sep 20, 2016 • 86 min
TOPIC: Nobody’s favorite thing. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about update failures, magic, and attention. Their ongoing dive into the fractured and frustrating world of the modern cord-cutter ecosystem continues. It’s ponderous.
289: John Rhetoric
Sep 13, 2016 • 100 min
TOPIC: Every week (and every time you think of it) This week, Dan and Merlin start by talking about some of the great updates iOS 10—alongside the usual strident advice about backing up before you do anything. Merlin also shares the late-night debacle of…
288: History is Not Made for Horses
Sep 6, 2016 • 98 min
TOPIC: Find My Mac. Please. With Apple’s big iPhone event coming tomorrow, Dan and Merlin discuss what makes this particular day such a black box in Apple’s history. This is likely to be the last day for some time when we will know SO very little about…
287: You Are Now Cleared for Salad
Aug 30, 2016 • 89 min
TOPIC: Frantic SM 10 Pieces This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the problem with wraps, the problem with notebooks, and the problem with Amazon reviews.
286: Secret Rap Name
Aug 23, 2016 • 78 min
TOPIC: Hey, try this. This week, Dan and Merlin have a shortie, so they talk about stuff they’re loving right now and make some recommendations on gadgets, music, movies, and more. Also, the scientific link between chemtrails and morgellons can finally be…
285: A Baller VCR
Aug 16, 2016 • 104 min
TOPIC: Kids don’t need VCR Plus+. This week, Dan and Merlin continue their series on updates. The topic this week is all about media consumption—in particular, the massive changes to how they learn about, locate, obtain, schedule, and consume media over…
284: Wake Up, Van Hœt
Aug 9, 2016 • 98 min
This week, Dan and Merlin open with an unintentionally deep dive on how Merlin has been tricking out his house with home automation stuff. The main topic this week returns to the theme of updates; in this case, how ubiquitous devices have changed pretty…
283: Cognition to Completion
Aug 2, 2016 • 97 min
This week, Dan and Merlin continue their series on updates, talking about the evolution of electronic task management in their lives. Hint: simplify, simplify.
282: Boring and Yet Wonderful
Jul 26, 2016 • 76 min
TOPIC: Orinoco Flow This week, Dan and Merlin continue their series on updates, focusing on the difference between the days before and after ubiquitous wifi. Also, lots of fun odds and sods on Scrivener and surviving summer with kids.
281: The Mayor of Chocolate Sundaes
Jul 19, 2016 • 102 min
TOPIC: Way of the future. This week, Dan and Merlin continue their discussion on updates to their systems and their productivity worlds. In particular: how have new technologies and critical masses of users led to wanting or needing fewer intermediary…
280: The Big Filter
Jul 12, 2016 • 97 min
TOPIC: Updates on Productivity and a modern Kobayashi Maru Scenario This week, Dan and Merlin start a new series on updates. Which sounds really boring, but it isn’t, we swear. This time out, the boys start by diving deep on how and why just so much of…
279: The Fishery Loophole
Jul 5, 2016 • 101 min
TOPIC: …and, then what happens? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the unexpected cognitive benefits of ritual, repetition, and thinking through the fascinating question: “…and, then what happens?”
278: Yelling at an Idea
Jun 28, 2016 • 90 min
TOPIC: People, amirite? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the complexities of communicating with each other. And, brother, is it ever complicated.
277: Everything’s Hard
Jun 21, 2016 • 97 min
TOPIC: Varieties of pain. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Dan’s progress on building and its imminent beta release. Lots of fascinating details on why he’s made it and who it might be great for. Then, there’s discussion of the unexpected…
276: Do You Even Lift?
Jun 14, 2016 • 96 min
TOPIC: Merlin’s never sent his heartbeat. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about some of this week’s WWDC announcements, the past and future of Apple, and that awkward feeling of wondering whether and when new technology is personally relevant.
275: The Lies of Big Shoe
Jun 7, 2016 • 96 min
TOPIC: Fill one bag. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about our relationship with the stuff in our lives and how overwhelming it can be. Solutions are offered—throw out that old cinnamon!
274: A Goat in the Pipe
May 31, 2016 • 96 min
TOPIC: Disruptions in Service This week, Dan and Merlin talk about that ineffable but growing feeling of disconnection from the collections we used to treasure. Music, Photos, Movies, Books—all the stuff we increasingly entrust to The Cloud. Seems like…
273: Knives and Spoons
May 24, 2016 • 128 min
TOPIC: True or false dilemmas? This week, things kick off with a discussion of how to be helpful. Especially at your kid’s school, but really just in general. This leads to a rumination on “roots” and what makes us feel like we’re part of a community. The…
272: Surprise Endoscopy
May 17, 2016 • 102 min
TOPIC: Such small hands. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Dan’s acquisition of an iPhone SE and how much he’s loving it. This leads to some ruminative discussion about how we pick devices based on how we prefer to use them. Also, some love for…
271: Gravy Dumpster
May 10, 2016 • 112 min
TOPIC: Grow what? Grow HOW? This week, Dan and Merlin have a surprisingly passionate discussion about growth. Companies gotta “grow,” right? But…what the hell does that really even mean? Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. Also, an important…
270: According to the Cabinet
May 3, 2016 • 96 min
TOPIC: Opinion at Scale. This week kicks off with a confession that Dan and Merlin are increasingly less interested in coverage of Apple’s finances and the related Kremlinology and blind guessing about the company. Merlin announces the unlikely product…
269: 65 Cigarette Butts
Apr 26, 2016 • 114 min
TOPIC: Finding stories and insights hiding in your data. This week, Dan and Merlin dive deep into the new world of personal tracking. Dan has a new FitBit, and Merlin has a surprisingly complicated system involving many devices and apps. Great stuff you…
268: Tumblo Drylo
Apr 19, 2016 • 106 min
TOPIC: Putting an Overt Stake in the Ground. This week, Dan and Merlin end up talking about the surprising stuff a Fitbit can do for you. Dan even buys one. Also, some discussion of pope hats, NASCAR, (the amazing) Screens 4, and that failing restaurant…
267: Dear Iowa, I Have Enjoyed Your Corn
Apr 12, 2016 • 99 min
TOPIC: But, alas. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Smile’s updated announcement about TextExpander and the ugly problem of blind internet rage. Also, lots of talk about ponderous 80s movies and old TV shows, including Dan learning which program had…
266: European Bachelor
Apr 5, 2016 • 124 min
TOPIC: Wow, times change. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the challenges and opportunities of subscription-based payment models. When do they work (or not) and how quickly does autopay fatigue kick in?
265: Especially Doris
Mar 29, 2016 • 124 min
TOPIC: Welcome to Costco. I love you. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about breakfast sandwiches, the pain and suffering of dealing with Apple IDs, managing kids and their iOS devices, Merlin’s weird week with Playstation Vue, and the science (or…
264: This Made Me Think of You
Mar 22, 2016 • 119 min
TOPIC: Serving the super-motivated super-fan. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about: a modest request from Merlin some interesting new options for viewing OTA broadcast television on Apple TV the evolution (and often lost opportunities) of media delivery…
263: The Working Definition of Love
Mar 15, 2016 • 127 min
TOPIC: No one cares about your demo anymore. This week Dan & Merlin talk about realizing when life isn’t all about you and getting better at learning how to say “thank you.” Also, lots of great practical (and philosophical) suggestions for getting started…
262: Large Platinum Spoon
Mar 8, 2016 • 143 min
TOPIC: Staying out of Technology Detention This week, Dan and Merlin do another giant-size grabbag episode that covers a lot of ground, including: movies, kids, and ratings, oh my! better text editing on iPad, faster typing on iOS complexities of picking…
261: The Illusion of Ease
Mar 1, 2016 • 122 min
TOPIC: That’s Not How the Future Works. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about evolving technology culture, the weird landscape of semi-smart devices, and why Merlin does and kinda doesn’t do Getting Things Done so much anymore.
260: Stuck in Green Forever
Feb 23, 2016 • 121 min
TOPIC: Grab Bag. This week, Dan and Merlin cover the waterfront. This wide-ranging episode covers lots of listener feedback, corrections of egregious errors, D&D alignment, the danger of guessing why people are how they are, some fun Tumblr…
259: The Transitive Quality of Misunderstanding
Feb 16, 2016 • 104 min
TOPIC: Epistemology and Parenting as Dumpster Fire This week, Dan and Merlin end up talking a lot about what they don’t know and how they know they don’t know it. The biases, errors, and frames that make us feel wiser than we probably are. Sometimes it…
258: Means of Egress
Feb 9, 2016 • 105 min
TOPIC: Feelings, Slide Rules, and The Franklin Test This week Merlin hasn’t had enough coffee and may have early-onset toxoplasmosis, so he and Dan respond to great feedback from listeners, mostly on feeling feelings.
257: Homemade Science Mayonnaise
Feb 2, 2016 • 94 min
TOPIC: Information, Context, and Courage. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the reaction to last week’s episode about work and identity and respond to follow-up questions from listeners. Also, Merlin buys a faucet.
256: Every Minute Weighs the Same
Jan 26, 2016 • 97 min
TOPIC: Coder, Kayaker, Father, Person. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Dan’s attempt to vastly rejigger his schedule in the interest of mental and physical health. This leads to a long discussion of work, identity, expectations, and choosing which of…
255: A Ladle of Ladling
Jan 19, 2016 • 106 min
TOPIC: Say something funny. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about entertainment as a career and how difficult it can be to know whether you’re suited for it. Plus, discussions of X-Men, San Francisco’s collapse, and the best way to get vomit out of the…
254: Fixed Points in Time
Jan 12, 2016 • 73 min
TOPIC: Budgeting the Primary Secondary Project This week, Dan and Merlin do a deep dive on a very old and very thorny topic: managing time. Thing is: this is not about bookkeeping—it’s about accounting. Being honest, humble, and diligent in mindfully…
253: Ty Lambo
Jan 5, 2016 • 113 min
TOPIC: Elephants all the way down. This week, Dan and Merlin do a deep dive on communication, perception, persuasion, empathy, and understanding, as illustrated by everything from The Force Awakens to Don LaPre to PR emails to Donald Trump to a variety of…
252: The Chocolate Boys
Dec 23, 2015 • 107 min
TOPIC: Something something the things we own. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the way shopping changes how we buy stuff—and how buying is changing what we can actually shop for. Then, there’s a ruminative discussion of the Mast Brothers chocolate…
251: Manna Goy
Dec 15, 2015 • 87 min
TOPIC: Maybe quit being so “busy.” This week, Dan and Merlin drop a lot of science on the miraculous taxonomies of Judaica. Mazel Tov! For the big topic, Merlin launches into an animated jeremiad on words meaning things, with a focus on being terminally…
250: Step One: Don’t Dress Like the Hamburglar
Dec 8, 2015 • 117 min
TOPIC: Sunrise, Sunset. This week, Dan and Merlin celebrate their 250th episode with an extensive discussion of McDonaldland and its horrific culture and citizenry. The main topic addresses the ““sunsetting”” of the Mailbox iOS app—and what it highlights…
249: A John Nash Moment
Dec 1, 2015 • 109 min
TOPIC: Personal Crazy Walls This week, Dan and Merlin start by covering a lot of things that you might actually be thinking of. The meat of the episode focuses on a listener question about deciding what things go where—leading to a pretty nerdy exegesis…
248: A Rye Bread Made of Birds
Nov 24, 2015 • 92 min
TOPIC: More Songs About Buildings and Food This week, Dan and Merlin talk about transitions, microwave ovens, air conditioning, and the likelihood of salmonella.
247: On a Farm with a Monkey
Nov 17, 2015 • 83 min
TOPIC: A Mark on a Page This week, Dan and Merlin kick off by talking about Dan’s recent interview with “Weird Al” and how he’s such an interesting harbinger of changing times for media and platforms. Next, Merlin responds to a listener’s question about…
246: Venn Diagram of Confusion
Nov 10, 2015 • 114 min
TOPIC: Medieval or Renaissance? This week, Dan and Merlin start out by helping listeners learn to identify the subtle differences between all things Renaissance and Medieval. The remainder of the show is split between an in-depth introduction to the Plex…
245: The Least Broken
Nov 3, 2015 • 117 min
TOPIC: First impressions of the new Apple TV This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the triumphs and travails of their first few days with the fourth generation Apple TV.
244: You Have to Be a Stag
Oct 27, 2015 • 115 min
TOPIC: You are who you choose to be. This week Dan and Merlin talk about making buying decisions, dealing with unsolicited email, preventing stupid from sticking to you, and finding systems that may or may not work.
243: The Device at Hand
Oct 20, 2015 • 95 min
TOPIC: It’s Business All the Way Down. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about joys and frustrations of contemporary consumer technologies. So great yet so frustrating. So powerful yet so hobbled. It’s weird how, as great as the newest tech ever gets, we so…
242: Not My Bird
Oct 13, 2015 • 93 min
TOPIC: Procrastination is a life sentence. This week, after some high-level discussion on the topics of Marvel and media reduxes, Dan and Merlin (maaaaybe) wrap up their initial and very positive impressions of iOS 9 on modern Apple devices. More fawning…
241: We Went to Princeton
Oct 6, 2015 • 98 min
TOPIC: iOS Amazement This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Dan’s new iPad Air 2 and continue their discussion of how much iOS 9 on modern devices is already changing how we do our work. Also, some nerdy updates on how Merlin uses synced text files via…
240: The Third Phase Is Now
Sep 29, 2015 • 103 min
TOPIC: Speed, Reliability, and Expectations This episode, Dan and Merlin talk about this week’s massive leaps forward with the pairing of iOS 9 and iPhone 6s.
239: Starving African Child
Sep 22, 2015 • 109 min
TOPIC: Block! Block! Body blow! Uppercut! This week, Dan and Merlin talk less about ad-blocking and more about what kind-of feels like (but might not actually be) a point of change for web advertising, podcasting, and media as a whole, which could affect,…
238: A 100-Year Problem
Sep 15, 2015 • 115 min
TOPIC: Knowing what you’ll need to know. This week, Dan and Merlin answer a listener question about how the “slow your roll” thought technology can apply to learning new skills.
237: Slow Your Roll
Sep 8, 2015 • 98 min
TOPIC: Stop that train! This week, Dan and Merlin talk about some ideas for noticing and then battling the surfeits of negative thought that sometimes threaten to overrun us. Also: talk of a cool new computer mouse, evolution in the comic book industry,…
236: Finished for Now
Sep 1, 2015 • 95 min
TOPIC: Practice, practice, practice. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the perilous wonders of practice of all kinds.
235: This is a Thing
Aug 25, 2015 • 82 min
TOPIC: Losing hit points. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the stuff you have to do to stay healthy and well—and the rocky path to realizing when you have to actually “make it a thing.” There’s also some follow-up on OTA antennas, car keys, and how…
234: Two Inches Behind the Board
Aug 18, 2015 • 101 min
TOPIC: Compensatory muscles This week, Dan and Merlin talk about how much emotions can become like physical injuries—and what happens when we try to overcompensate for either.
233: Emotional Density
Aug 11, 2015 • 79 min
TOPIC: Can I ask you a question? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the complexities of communicating effectively via email. They also begin to sketch out a unified field theory for escalating communication media based on informational and emotional…
232: You Got This.
Aug 4, 2015 • 113 min
TOPIC: Don’t just be the meatbag in the room. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about “the fill-in guy,” TV shows they’re loving, listener feedback, improving presentations, The Smiths, the evolution of podcasts, contact management woes, and remembering what…
231: Hot Rod Hospital Ship
Jul 28, 2015 • 118 min
With Merlin on sabbatical (returning next week), Dan is once again joined by John Roderick. They discuss the significance of dreams, sleep paralysis, unexplained phenomenon, alien abductions, a relationship with magic, the importance of history, night…
230: My Emotional Reservoir
Jul 21, 2015 • 128 min
With Merlin on sabbatical, Dan is joined by John Roderick to talk about being a candidate, taking care of yourself, managing introversion, trying on ideas without fear, the Thirty Years War, and the struggle of being a generalist.
229: Shrimp in the Desert
Jul 14, 2015 • 92 min
TOPIC: The perils and joys of just getting started. This week’s episode is chockablock with awesomeness, from the sublime to the ridiculous. It ends on a very inspiring note. But, en route: Mexican guys love Morrissey Shabbos goys cause fire to be created…
228: Tibet’s Next Top Buddha
Jul 7, 2015 • 78 min
TOPIC: What kind of “perfect” can you tolerate? This week, Dan and Merlin have a big week. A huge week. Opening with a thank you to generous listeners, the boys then proceed to tackle some FU on the complicated world of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III (he is…
227: The Treasure Room
Jun 30, 2015 • 81 min
TOPIC: Learning to shut up and relax. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the challenges and benefits of getting out of your own head.
226: Only Child*
Jun 23, 2015 • 85 min
TOPIC: Hitting and sharing and dietetic lunch. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about having and not having siblings (and what it may or may not actually mean) as well as addressing some of the rapid changes coming to the business of podcasting.
225: A Different Kind of Happy
Jun 16, 2015 • 90 min
TOPIC: You can’t have ALL the phone calls. This week, Dan and Merlin battle Skype to talk about Dan’t hissing floor, text editing on iOS, plus more followup on WWDC announcements. Spotlight on a second look at last week’s conversation about how we do and…
224: Sugar Pills and a Pack of Cigarettes
Jun 9, 2015 • 112 min
TOPIC: Poundsign Communication This week, Dan and Merlin talk about evolutions in how we do and don’t communicate with each other.
223: Normal is Whatever is There
Jun 2, 2015 • 70 min
TOPIC: Interstitial time and why you want it back. This week, after some preliminary discussion of smoking and the children who throw rocks and run track, Dan and Merlin answer questions from listeners.
222: Full-Stack Obsessive
May 28, 2015 • 102 min
Merlin and Dan use The Aviator as a jumping-off point to talk about OCD as it relates to perfectionism, creativity, and drive in the workplace. They discuss rituals and their consequences, the importance of mise en place, and eliminating disruptive…
221: Minimally Viable Interruption
May 19, 2015 • 98 min
TOPIC: Time, Stones, and Giving Yourself a Break Just…give yourself permission to not feel like a dick today. Especially if you think you don’t deserve it.
220: Canadian Gentle
May 12, 2015 • 93 min
TOPIC: Hopeless and Impossible. This week, Dan and Merlin, delve deeper into the impossibly hopeless nature of email.
219: At Sixes and Sevens
May 5, 2015 • 96 min
TOPIC: Jumping Over the Precipice. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about what to be courageous about and when. It’s rarely as easy or as simple as it seems.
218: The Tigers in Your Kitchen
Apr 28, 2015 • 95 min
TOPIC: Fear, Anxiety, and Existential Whack-A-Mole This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Color Guard, the science of binge watching, and the uncertain future of podcasts. But, mainly, they talk a lot about fear and anxiety. Deep dive here. How are fear and…
217: The Worst Most Advanced Teenager
Apr 21, 2015 • 119 min
TOPIC: Take it personal and make it personal. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about culture, solipsism, hiring, and needle-moving things.
216: Safety Sword
Apr 14, 2015 • 71 min
TOPIC: Kremlinology and Verbing This week, Dan and Merlin follow-up on Dan’s neighbor and The Trailer Incident. They also undertake a rather circuitous exploration of how little we understand about how stuff gets made. This leads to a semi-useful…
215: Legacy Cat
Apr 7, 2015 • 100 min
TOPIC: With great power comes…uh, uh, what-have-you. This week, Dan and Merlin cover a lot of ground. What makes a great comics movie. What movies to show (and not show) your kids. The majesty of The Big Lebowski. And, what exactly Dan should do about a…
214: Destroyed by Farm Equipment
Mar 31, 2015 • 76 min
TOPIC: Youth as exception. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about chess, the problem with SEO, and why getting old is normal (if you’re lucky).
213: That’s Not Where Rogue Goes!
Mar 24, 2015 • 76 min
TOPIC: Thinking Patterns and Thinking Bias This week, Dan and Merlin talk in detail about how our unconscious patterns of thinking can damage our quality of life and hinder our ability to grow.
212: That Tuesday Feeling
Mar 16, 2015 • 72 min
TOPIC: A lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. This week, Dan and Merlin are all thrown off since they’re recording on a Monday. Weird, right? They mostly talk about the respective states of comics and Apple fandom.
211: Squeeze the Teabag
Mar 10, 2015 • 67 min
TOPIC: The weather is not the sky. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about discovering the challenges that help you to thrive—and grow.
210: Fighting with Garbage Can Lids
Mar 3, 2015 • 95 min
TOPIC: Less of an Island. This week Dan and Merlin talk about time, negotiations, and what we want (and don’t want) from our email apps.
209: Habitual Ritual
Feb 24, 2015 • 100 min
TOPIC: Throwing Stars and Managers This week, Dan and Merlin talk about working in a beehive and discuss whether they played D&D properly.
208: Don’t Touch Daddy
Feb 17, 2015 • 93 min
TOPIC: Illness, Late Night TV, AI in the home, and Talking Baby Dolls This week, Merlin battles the flu to talk with Dan about late night television, binge watching, talking baby dolls, and the kind of artificial intelligence we really need.
207: Vampires in the Wallpaper
Feb 10, 2015 • 100 min
TOPIC: Scoping the Minimally-Viable Me This week, Dan and Merlin catch up on illness, Marvel comics, and what-have-you, but end up talking a lot about who we really are—who “I” actually am. Merlin eventually slips into an imbued and mildly-psychedelic…
206: Talking to Santa
Jan 27, 2015 • 78 min
TOPIC: Work as Practice This week Dan and Merlin chew on some of the numerous eternal imponderables of creative work—with a special focus on “work as practice.”
205: Obsolete, circa 1993
Jan 21, 2015 • 128 min
With Merlin on sabbatical, Dan is joined by John Roderick to discuss his recent visit to Africa, the military, corporate friends, strategic thinking, the Internet, digital books and albums, echoes, playmobil figures, measuring your arms, the tribal world,…
204: Space Geisha
Jan 13, 2015 • 103 min
TOPIC: “I am NOT talking about bartending.” A kind of two-parter this week. First up, a meditation on invasive thoughts, how they can take over our lives, and how we can maybe learn to deal with them. Second (starting about 38 minutes in), a VERY…
203: I Blame the Media.
Jan 6, 2015 • 91 min
TOPIC: The things you did or didn’t say. This week, Dan and Merlin sympathize with their pal Marco’s recently becoming “way too popular for a day.” What happens when something we said or wrote gets quoted, misquoted, taken out of context, or amplified a…
202: Choosing is a Radio Button
Dec 30, 2014 • 86 min
TOPIC: The Life You Actually Want. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about organization, multitasking and new year’s resolutions.
201: Never Enough Bathrooms
Dec 23, 2014 • 68 min
TOPIC: The Opacity of the Stack In this depressing holiday episode, Dan and Merlin talk about how tenuous our modern infrastructures feel. How great it is when everything in the stack “just works”; how increasingly seldom all the pieces work; and how…
200: Blitzkriegscheiße
Dec 16, 2014 • 72 min
TOPIC: He’ll only do three of these. This week, Dan and Merlin mark their 200th episode by responding to listener feedback and talking about Led Zeppelin and lunch tables.
199: Merlin Mann’s Best of 2014
Dec 9, 2014 • 81 min
TOPIC: When You Love a Voice. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about podcasts they’re loving right now. And, yeah, Merlin rants a little about overthinking and fetishizing podcast production.
198: Gardening Leave
Dec 2, 2014 • 78 min
TOPIC: Time to reboot. This week, Dan and Merlin respond to a note from Listener Tim on how to stay busy and active during his garden leave. The Boys encourage him to experiment with the personal rebooting that’s almost impossible to do when you’re stuck…
197: Way of the Brown Lego
Nov 25, 2014 • 102 min
TOPIC: Mail Bag. This week, Dan & Merlin respond to listener email and toots. Specifically, dealing with passive-aggressive team members, bulbous “CC:” lines, and what constitutes “stability.”
196: The Circle of Lice
Nov 20, 2014 • 108 min
TOPIC: Hakuna Matata. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about home pest control, misleading beef jerky, and becoming a more conservative electronics consumer.
195: Prima Facie Butter Coffee
Nov 11, 2014 • 102 min
TOPIC: Working alone together. This week, Dan and Merlin look at the many ways workplaces have changed over the years, and how they can be great or not so great.
194: The Company of a Clown
Nov 4, 2014 • 84 min
TOPIC: What gets us on the moon? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about varieties of clowns, rogue walruses, bloody elevator buttons, taking risks, and catching footballs.
193: Disappointment Delivery Mechanism
Oct 28, 2014 • 95 min
TOPIC: You Are That Little Dot. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about notifications, beeps, bloops, flashes, and all the stuff we have zero control over. There’s about a million ways people can contact us and just as many ways we can unintentionally…
192: Party City Trophies
Oct 21, 2014 • 93 min
TOPIC: Reinforcement, Aikido, and Fear This week, Dan and Merlin try to tackle positive versus negative reinforcement.
191: Heisenberg Uncertainty Dog
Oct 14, 2014 • 87 min
TOPIC: People, amirite? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about neighbors, dogs, Macs,, and flavors of reinforcement.
190: C-3PO’s Beard
Oct 7, 2014 • 81 min
TOPIC: The Ultimate Existential Investor This week, Dan and Merlin vent about Apple as only its superfans really can. What happens when things…don’t…just work?
189: That’s How You Roll When You’re a Lobster
Sep 30, 2014 • 77 min
TOPIC: Starting the stuff we haven’t started. This week—after some entertaining random talk and a handful of hardware and software recommendations—Dan and Merlin dive back into a familiar evergreen topic: why is it so hard to get started with a project?…
188: The Smell of Snake Anxiety
Sep 23, 2014 • 108 min
TOPIC: Media, Rarely Well Done This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the modern consumer media landscape and how we seem to be changing almost as fast as the technology. Almost.
187: Peeling a Dangerous Onion
Sep 16, 2014 • 89 min
TOPIC: Knowing What You’ll Need to Know This week, Dan and Merlin talk about a recent presentation Merlin gave on expertise and curiosity. They also pour out a 40 for Macworld Magazine.
186: I Wish John Siracusa Were Here
Sep 9, 2014 • 66 min
TOPIC: Grab bag. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about—what? Well. They talk about privilege, empathy, bikes, bass players, Merlin’s new mic, more bathroom signs, and a controversial anecdote about how Apple was maybe kinda not nice to a customer.
185: David Foster Wallace Morning
Sep 2, 2014 • 89 min
TOPIC: The Durable Impossibility of Email. This week, Dan and Merlin return to an evergreen topic: the impossibility of email. Chaotic, paradoxical, debilitating, frustrating, buoyant, and occasionally capable of causing short-term madness, email is still…
184: Days of Bathrooms Past
Aug 26, 2014 • 88 min
TOPIC: Is there anything else you want to tell me? This week, Dan and Merlin discuss what bathrooms can teach us about learning, expertise, and empathy.
183: Remember Who Has the Cannon
Aug 19, 2014 • 90 min
TOPIC: Wait, what’d I DO?!? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about anger, misunderstandings, and trying to do the right thing. How bewildering (and emotional) it can be to feel misunderstood—as well as trying to better understand what we may have done…
182: Non-Canonical Suspenders
Aug 12, 2014 • 87 min
TOPIC: Thinking, Thinking, Thinking. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the inextricable links between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They also take some time to fondly remember Robin Williams.
181: A Broom Pusher for Johnny Carson
Aug 6, 2014 • 67 min
While Merlin takes a short sabbatical, Dan is joined by special guest David Sparks to talk about presentations, making your thing, balancing acts, iBooks author, paying for your kids’ school with side projects, old man glasses, and more.
180: Deus Ex Machina for Your Gut
Jul 22, 2014 • 70 min
TOPIC: Stupid can’t stick to me. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the distinction between being against something vs. not having an opinion about it vs. just choosing not to let the world stick to you.
179: 7 Most Important Breasts for Your Re-Fi
Jul 15, 2014 • 76 min
TOPIC: A Personal History of Personal Publishing This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the constantly-changing landscape of online publishing. How we got from home pages to blogs to social media and beyond. Things move around, things get shorter (or…
178: Fake Laminated Bull Poop
Jul 8, 2014 • 79 min
TOPIC: Yes. Yes. This week, Dan and Merlin follow-up on their recent 5by5 at the Movies episode about Glengarry Glen Ross, talking more about sales culture, media consumption, how our personal data gets used to close us, and why Dan admires Ricky Roma.…
177: Motivation Has Pit Stains
Jul 1, 2014 • 80 min
TOPIC: Motivation This week, Dan and Merlin talk about their upcoming 5by5 at the Movies episode on Glengarry Glen Ross, which segues naturally into a discussion of the many aspects of motivation. Carrots, sticks, bonuses, fear, status, and just growing…
Jun 24, 2014 • 75 min
TOPIC: (Not) Solving People Problems With Technology. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the challenge of finding business workflows that…actually work. And, what happens if you try to fix a “people problem” with a technical solution. Also, detailed…
175: Andy is the Stuff of Nightmares
Jun 10, 2014 • 50 min
TOPIC: “Creativity” where you din’t expect it. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about PIXAR, creativity, and FoldingText before finally succumbing to the treachery of Skype.
174: I Dont Deal in Abstractions
Jun 5, 2014 • 56 min
TOPIC: Dan & Merlin in Fancy San Francisco This week, Dan and Merlin visit across a table in a darkened room to talk about WWDC, San Francisco’s lesser-known features, and how to spend less time bogged down in day-to-day junk.
173: The Best Days End in Tears
May 27, 2014 • 74 min
TOPIC: Culture is what we DO. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about processing a hotel room and leading by example.
172: Somewhere Between a Habit and a River
May 22, 2014 • 63 min
TOPIC: How to undig a river. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about an email message from a listener who’s having trouble getting away from his inbox long enough to do what he needs to, introducing a mindfulness exercise that may help point to a deeper…
171: Put a Sweatshirt In My Wallet
May 13, 2014 • 77 min
TOPIC: It’s like wallets and backpacks. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about H.R. Giger, Dan’s latest Android experiment, more on app privacy, and why we need both wallets, backpacks, and suitcases. You know. Analogies.
170: Useful, Creepy, Gross
May 6, 2014 • 94 min
Merlin and Dan talk about Marked, Drafts, MLKSHK shutting down,, routers, Hong King Phoey, poisoned meatballs, and more.
169: Upgrade Your Skateboard
Apr 29, 2014 • 87 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about comiXology and the future of online digital purchases.
168: It’s Okay for Cats to Wander Around on Planes
Apr 22, 2014 • 71 min
TOPIC: Standing up to Attention Bullies. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the world’s impossible expectations regarding each of our own time, attention, and access. What happens when we tacitly allow the universe to ask us anything any time for any…
167: Second Banana
Apr 15, 2014 • 72 min
TOPIC: Ubi Sunt, LCS? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the uneasy future of local comic shops—especially in light of Amazon’s announced acquisition of comiXology.
166: 404 - Friends Not Found
Apr 8, 2014 • 54 min
TOPIC: The future we can’t know. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about how quickly technology is evolving, how janky that evolution can be, and how terrible we all are at forecasting what will come next and beyond. Could Merlin have ever imagined he’d pay…
165: The Opposite of Attrition
Apr 1, 2014 • 73 min
TOPIC: Words mean things. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the blight of buzzwords, jargon, and douchespeak writ large.
164: Back in the Medieval Village
Mar 25, 2014 • 98 min
TOPIC: Curiosity & Creativity This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about expertise and how it relates to the ineffable qualities of curiosity and creativity. Can curiosity be inspired or taught? Or, is it just something you either have or don’t? How do we…
163: Head Lice :-(
Mar 18, 2014 • 86 min
TOPIC: LEGO and Expertise This week, Dan and Merlin talk about LEGO and what becoming a Master Builder can teach us about expertise. Also: tooth fairies, binder clips, and the pedagogical warning shot. WARNING: This episode of B2W contains information…
162: We’re All Waiting in the Same Line
Mar 11, 2014 • 84 min
TOPIC: ““Experiencing Issues”” with Customer Service This week, Dan and Merlin analyze what’s really going wrong when we get bad customer service. Spoiler: The brand is only as sound as its day-to-day implementation.
161: Zeitgeist Helmut
Mar 4, 2014 • 92 min
TOPIC: Time, Sleep, and Aspirations This week, Dan and Merlin talk about impossible trade-offs and the benefits of remembering this is actually your life.
160: Reverse Spider Sense
Feb 25, 2014 • 74 min
This week, Dan and Merlin talk about shaving, lights, and Dan’s amazing new superpower.
159: You Become Your Catch Phrases
Feb 18, 2014 • 87 min
Merlin and Dan talk about Library Elf, app launchers like Quicksilver and Alfred, Stanley Kubrick, pushing people to create greatness, not knowing what you like until you see it, the typefaces of Moon, and more.
158: Merlin-Sized Hole
Feb 11, 2014 • 98 min
TOPIC: Why We Have Doors. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about internet nostalgia, hacking vs. whacking, and why we have doors for a reason.
157: Non-Dominant Hand
Feb 4, 2014 • 82 min
TOPIC: The Spreadsheet of You This week, Dan and Merlin talk more about sleep and how self-quantization can goose your mindfulness.
156: Not the Monk I Used to Be
Jan 28, 2014 • 101 min
TOPIC: Better Sleep Habits This week, Dan and Merlin do a deep dive on building better sleep habits with a focus on the paradoxes and planning of daily activities that can make all the difference.
155: Newton’s Fifth Law of Politeness
Jan 21, 2014 • 91 min
TOPIC: Isolation and Identity This week, Dan and Merlin talk about civility, identity, Florida, and how you can’t unsee Idiocracy.
154: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys
Jan 14, 2014 • 83 min
TOPIC: The Attention Stack This week, Dan and Merlin talk about—what?—maybe the attention stack. How what we pay attention to (and, yes spend our time on) can’t help but affect how we see, think, feel, and decide. Not happy with any of those things? Start…
153: Anxiety’s a Goat
Jan 7, 2014 • 75 min
TOPIC: The thoughts we think. And think. And think. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about anxiety, compulsive thoughts, and how to at least crack an air hole in a big problem. Way of the future.
152: Tiny Hands, Large Desires
Dec 31, 2013 • 75 min
TOPIC: Consistency, Change, and Counting-Down This week, Dan and Merlin return to the evergreen topic of new year’s resolutions. Remember: in the main, you are what you’ve already done a lot.
151: The Christmas Pants
Dec 24, 2013 • 67 min
TOPIC: Christmas and Control This week, Dan and Merlin meander through holiday matters, including the Winter Warlock-like impotence of having your electric meter blow up on Christmas Eve Eve.
150: Ask for John Klumpp
Dec 17, 2013 • 87 min
TOPIC: Enough. This week, Dan and Merlin meander around the meaning of, “enough,” pondering the deep existential pit we dig for ourselves and maybe how to get out of it. Merry Christmas. Get your head out of your ass.
149: Vixen Haler
Dec 10, 2013 • 79 min
TOPIC: Criticism and Its Discontents This week, Dan and Merlin talk about criticism, people who don’t like you, and how much to let each have anything to do with the work you produce.
148: Activity Seat
Dec 3, 2013 • 61 min
TOPIC: Gooseneck Options This week, with Dan re-sick and Merlin full of beans, the boys do a deep dive on hand washing, purpose-built bathroom activity gadgets, and the benefits of arming our children.
147: Five-Dollar Murray
Nov 26, 2013 • 80 min
TOPIC: Perfectionism and Procrastination This week, Dan and Merlin talk about why the classic meanings of perfectionism mostly miss the mark; it’s less about being scared to finish and more about being terrified to start.
146: Phantom Bell Syndrome
Nov 19, 2013 • 95 min
TOPIC: Going Mobile-er. This week, Dan and Merlin are very sick, so they talk about being sick. Then, they talk about what it would take to move to using just an iPad Air on the road.
145: Nine-Thousand Words of Holden Caulfield
Nov 12, 2013 • 55 min
TOPIC: Grab bag This week, Dan takes a minute to sit down with Merlin to talk about bathroom GIFs, Marvel movies, private school ejection, and a new interview with Merlin that is very very long.
144: Habituate a Goat
Nov 5, 2013 • 79 min
TOPIC: Perception and Perspective. In their second ever live, face-to-face episode, Dan and Merlin talk about goats, noise gate, and taking a step back for a better view of where you are.
143: Chimpanzee Scallop Throwing
Oct 29, 2013 • 82 min
TOPIC: Preparation This week, Dan and Merlin talk about preparation.
142: 86 Jam Pack
Oct 22, 2013 • 93 min
TOPIC: Traveling Like a Gentleman. This week, Dan and Merlin revisit the travails of air travel. How to prepare, how to survive—and how to be a better and more mindful person along the way. Also, some timely discussion of this morning’s Apple product…
141: Counterclockwise. Like a Gentleman.
Oct 15, 2013 • 73 min
TOPIC: Learning the Wheres and Whens of Productivity This week, Dan and Merlin talk about learning from how you work to improve your basic productivity infrastructure, with specific attention to using Perspectives in OmniFocus. Whether it’s consolidating…
140: Silicon Circus
Oct 8, 2013 • 84 min
TOPIC: Special Guest, Matt Alexander This week, Merlin is joined by Bionic co-host, Matt Alexander. They discuss ““technology ecosystems,”” life as a self-described trans-atlantic, tech scenes that thrive and don’t, dating someone from Florida (and her…
139: Tap Your Meat Stack
Oct 1, 2013 • 85 min
TOPIC: Grab Bag, plus Tasks vs. Calendar Items This week Dan and Merlin administer an epic grab bag episode, chockablock with new app, book, podcast, and music suggestions. Also, a return to the evergreen topic of where stuff goes. How to decide whether a…
138: Mindfulness…Whether I Want It or Not
Sep 24, 2013 • 90 min
TOPIC: Informal Background Self-Quantization This week Dan & Merlin discuss the merits of self-quantization. Which is fancy way of saying, “Merlin got a new Fitbit.” Why is anecdotal self-reporting a sucker’s bet? What are the benefits of making your life…
137: Alice Two Arrows Bob
Sep 17, 2013 • 84 min
TOPIC: Etiquette, Intros, and Endorsements This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the surprisingly complicated topic of email introductions. Who emails whom? Who gets cc’d and for how long? How much homework are we making (or accepting)? And, thorniest of…
136: Scared of Your Own Life
Sep 11, 2013 • 58 min
TOPIC: Fear of Your Own TODO List This week, Dan and Merlin cover a topic suggested by listener, @jeff_nordstedt: not wanting to look at your todo list. From capture to completion, there are a million ways to fall off the path. The boys take a deep dive…
135: There’s No “I” in Success
Sep 3, 2013 • 80 min
TOPIC: Joss Whedon GTD; Meeting Redux This week, Dan and Merlin talk about getting specific with your productivity and why every meeting needs an agenda. Now, take a drink.
134: A Boss You Don’t Even Know About
Aug 26, 2013 • 89 min
TOPIC: Talk Shows, Baseball, and Inboxes. This week, Dan and Merlin cover a range of topics related to expertise, experience, professional repetition, and management, culminating in a tour of Merlin’s current email filtering strategy.
133: I’m Glad Your Computer Died
Aug 20, 2013 • 74 min
TOPIC: How many keys do you really need? This week, Dan and Merlin return to the question, “What do you want ten times more of?” and weigh the risks and benefits of increasing the amount of complexity in your life.
132: C+ Objective Stack
Aug 13, 2013 • 74 min
TOPIC: Fraud vs. Failure This week, Dan and Merlin dive into what makes us feel like frauds and what makes us feel like failures.
131: The Peacock Dance of Men
Aug 7, 2013 • 87 min
TOPIC: Power, Yelling, and Airport Kung Fu This week, Dan and Merlin continue their discussion of power and how it does or doesn’t work. Do real leaders actually talk like the douchebags, serial entrepreneurs, and screamy travelers struggling to imitate…
130: Cobb Salad Lawyer
Jul 30, 2013 • 88 min
TOPIC: Delays This week, Dan and Merlin talk about delays, agency, power, and why yelling at people about your problems rarely helps anyone.
129: Putting Your Meat by the Pool
Jul 23, 2013 • 92 min
TOPIC: Lists This week, Dan and Merlin talk about 3½ kinds of lists that can change your game. Merlin knows a lot about Productivity.
128: Eating Scones in the Closet
Jul 19, 2013 • 93 min
TOPIC: Time Awareness & Scope Wormholes This week, Dan and Merlin talk about why we (and Frank) are terrible at estimating time, as well as what we can do to get better at it.
127: Loki Situation
Jul 9, 2013 • 93 min
TOPIC: Employers, Bosses, Leaders, and Managers This week—in what may easily turn into a multi-episode arc—Dan and Merlin talk about bosses. Whether we’re looking at it from up or down, management is tricky business. The question is, what makes a boss a…
126: Howard Chicken
Jul 3, 2013 • 113 min
TOPIC: How many Saturdays do you get? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about time. Its scarcity, its passing, its tyranny, and its possibilities.
125: Hakuna Potato
Jun 28, 2013 • 119 min
TOPIC: There are Only Two Prices: Free and What It Costs This week, Dan and Merlin return to the classic lineup and some classic topics, including knowing your value, learning what to charge, and realizing what you can live with. Also: jury duty,…
124: The Tuesday Afternoon Version of Me
Jun 23, 2013 • 49 min
TOPIC: The Chinese Symbol for ‘Pants’ Inside of The Chinese Symbol for ‘Jury Duty.’ This week, Dan’s away, so Merlin goes solo, taking a break from jury duty to talk about the opportunities that can be hiding inside change, inconvenience, and tumult.
123: I Want to See Your Face the Whole Time (LIVE)
Jun 11, 2013 • 89 min
TOPIC: First Meeting, Gifts, and Grifts This week—after 122 episodes, plus almost a decade of internet pal-dom—Dan and Merlin finally meet and record in a room together for the first time. With only passing nods to the nominal topic of “gifts,” Dan and…
122: The Crowbar of Loyalty
Jun 4, 2013 • 106 min
TOPIC: Loyalty, Altruism, Reality Check, or Extortion? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about what we talk about when we talk about “loyalty.”
121: I Just Had a Dog Delivered
May 28, 2013 • 69 min
TOPIC: Dan’s Recent Bathroom Incident, et al. This week, Dan and Merlin exhale. Don’t search for secret doors.
120: Egg MacGuffin
May 21, 2013 • 96 min
TOPIC: What would you do differently if you had a “safety net?” This week, Dan and Merlin congratulate their pal, Marco, on the acquisition of a company he helped co-found. Which leads to the nominal topic: what kind of safety net would you need to feel…
119: Big Bag of Pandora’s Potatoes
May 14, 2013 • 88 min
TOPIC: Macintosh Nostalgia and Utter Apple ID Madness. This week, after an entirely appropriate amount of very important follow-up, Dan and Merlin talk about Susan Kare’s original Mac icons, why they’re not going to be appearing on John Siracusa’s…
118: One-Step Corn Kerneler
May 7, 2013 • 95 min
TOPIC: Toward an (Admittedly Dubious) Unified Field Theory of Creativity This week, Dan and Merlin consider a framework for understanding the basic modes and focal lengths involved in producing creative work. Why and how do we get so hung up and…
117: The Flu Shots of Siracusa County
Apr 30, 2013 • 91 min
TOPIC: Offices, and when to get out of them. This week—in what will surely be remembered as the greatest Back to Work episode of all time—Dan and Merlin eventually talk about working at a desk and when to take it someplace else.
116: Beagle Removal Service
Apr 29, 2013 • 94 min
TOPIC: Quit & Analyze, and Marvel Character Speculation. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Dan’s “Quit & Analyze” episode, then proceed into a very useful conversation about which characters from the Marvel Universe they’re each most like.
115: Invitation to a Blame Party
Apr 26, 2013 • 99 min
TOPIC: Fixing the Culture of Meetings This week, Dan and Merlin address the problems with meetings, and how we can each choose to improve them. Ten quick ideas? Purpose Agenda Grazing Policy Hard Edges Scheduling Guests Timekeeper No Ratholes Focus…
114: I’m Moving to FudgePacker
Apr 16, 2013 • 81 min
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…
113: Entropy’s Gonna Do Its Business
Apr 2, 2013 • 81 min
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…
112: Touching Pizza and Robotron
Mar 26, 2013 • 94 min
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…
111: You Get There Early for Pancake Day
Mar 19, 2013 • 78 min
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…
110: Okay, Then.
Mar 12, 2013 • 102 min
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…
109: Two Paragraphs on Bourbon
Mar 5, 2013 • 85 min
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…
108: What Can I Spray?
Feb 26, 2013 • 88 min
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…
107: Pull Out Your Dingus
Feb 19, 2013 • 82 min
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…
106: Enough Candy to Last Forever
Feb 12, 2013 • 96 min
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…
105: Fissures of Men
Feb 5, 2013 • 84 min
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…
104: Grab Your Revolver
Jan 29, 2013 • 93 min
TOPIC: Modern Media Management: Metadata and Smart Playlists This week Dan and Merlin continue their 3-part series on Modern Media Management: handling your iTunes Library, iOS Devices, and iTunes Match without making yourself crazy. In this episode, the…
103: Lotta Little Knives
Jan 22, 2013 • 99 min
TOPIC: Modern Media Management: iTunes Match This week Dan and Merlin begin a 3-part series on Modern Media Management: handling your iTunes Library, iOS Devices, and iTunes Match without making yourself crazy. In this episode, they cover setting up and…
102: Hunter Ready to Write
Jan 15, 2013 • 57 min
TOPIC: Creative Costumes vs. Pushing Out Product This week Dan and Merlin talk about how the legends and mythologies around creative people and beautiful losers can become such a destructive MacGuffin for us aspiring civilians. Getting gakked out on…
101: Sprinting Straight Into a Wall
Jan 8, 2013 • 89 min
TOPIC: Those New Years When We’re Not Actually Resolved. This week, Merlin and Dan step back from resolutions and shooting yourself in the face with a wrist rocket to talk about what you’re actually trying to change. You’re failing and feeling bad and…
100: Go Ahead, Caller.
Jan 3, 2013 • 89 min
TOPIC: Yes. The caller is there. This week, in celebration of their hundredth episode, Dan and Merlin do the first call-in episode of Back to Work. A bevy of the beloved jackals and nerds ask questions about GTD, creative autonomy, sleep and energy,…
99: Nobody Wants to Live in a Scaffolding
Dec 21, 2012 • 95 min
TOPIC: Troubleshooting for Saner GTD This week, Dan and Merlin wrap up their epic summer crossover series on David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, focusing on the trouble spots, hang-ups, and occasional rat holes that people often encounter in…
98: Bagged and Boarded
Dec 18, 2012 • 96 min
TOPIC: Working Getting Things Done to stay current, complete, and creative. This week, Dan and Merlin continue their discussion of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. Learning how to leverage GTD’s modality to firewall time for guilt-free creative…
97: Pope of the Office
Dec 11, 2012 • 104 min
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…
96: Compensatory Muscles
Dec 4, 2012 • 101 min
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
Nov 27, 2012 • 90 min
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…
94: A False Sun
Nov 20, 2012 • 91 min
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
Nov 13, 2012 • 96 min
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…
92: The Florida Episode
Nov 6, 2012 • 78 min
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…
91: Compiling Stallman From Source
Oct 30, 2012 • 70 min
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!™
Oct 23, 2012 • 85 min
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…
89: Burlap Sack Full of Oranges
Oct 16, 2012 • 91 min
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…
88: So Many Reasons to Cry
Oct 9, 2012 • 111 min
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…
87: Nothing to Declare But My Coconuts
Oct 2, 2012 • 91 min
TOPIC: Grit, Confidence, and Intuition. This week, Dan and Merlin begin a conversation on what researchers and educators are learning about why students of all ages do or don’t succeed. Yes, it’s about intelligence and other cognitive skills, but it’s…
86: The Talmud of Claremont
Sep 25, 2012 • 102 min
TOPIC: Anxious about the Change This week Merlin updates Dan about his schedule changes. They’re going to come, but it’s probably the anxiety, not the change, that is the problem. Take heart, it may be the change that you need. While you’re at it, take…
85: Schrödinger’s Soap Holder
Sep 18, 2012 • 82 min
TOPIC: One Operational Paper Towel; One Safety Paper Towel. This week, Dan and Merlin discuss how to use a public restroom. There’s some other stuff, too. But, yeah. Mostly Dan and Merlin discuss how to use a public restroom.
84: Every Genie is an Actuary
Sep 11, 2012 • 103 min
TOPIC: Superpowers, Madness, and the Pursuit of Interesting Problems Dan and Merlin talk about the superpowers you have and can’t control as well as the demons and drivers that our heroes have and can’t control. How sometimes we find ourselves craving the…
83: Way of the Future
Sep 4, 2012 • 92 min
TOPIC: Obsessions, Compulsions, Obsessions, and Compulsions. Also, Obsessions—and Compulsions. This week, Dan and Merlin lick the doorknob five times, tap their heads with their shoes, and ponder the problem of obsessions and compulsions.
82: Blue Food in Your Refrigerator
Aug 27, 2012 • 86 min
TOPIC: Capture, Contracts, and Mapping the Territory. This week, Dan and Merlin talk about keeping an honest calendar and ensuring you regularly review your “contracts” with yourself. Chock-a-block with practical COM-ponents for making sure your map is up…
81: LAMP for Your Productivity
Aug 20, 2012 • 89 min
TOPIC: Honesty and Sociopathy Go to Work Merlin and Dan talk about the cultural divide between you and your work. Coping with work is a little like being a sociopath so you better make sure you’re taking away the right lessons and being honest about the…
80: Cascading Wave of Bad
Aug 13, 2012 • 89 min
TOPIC: Kicking and Screaming Merlin has been dragged kicking and screaming into at least two things this week. Sometimes, that works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. But, how many of those things do we need? How many can you sign up for? How often do you…
79: Mayor Pro Tem of Hoboville
Aug 6, 2012 • 84 min
TOPIC: Adapting to the Danger Room of Life Dan and Merlin talk about how the protagonist of your story handles change in personal and work environments. How do you respond in the face of change you haven’t anticipated or isn’t conducive to who you want to…
78: Scream, Poop, and Run
Jul 30, 2012 • 77 min
TOPIC: Gut Churn, Pointing Arrows, and Recognizing Change This week, Dan and Merlin talk at length about a recent article by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad, called, “The Terrors & Occasional Virtues of Not Knowing What You’re Doing.” From the genesis of Radiolab…
77: Sadness Harmonica
Jul 23, 2012 • 85 min
TOPIC: Motivation, Hardware Stores, and Fighting the Last War This week, Dan and Merlin talk about motivation—how it changes, how it doesn’t, and how it can be fueled by anxiety and cognitive dissonance. There is also discussion of Merlin’s pear tart…
76: The Avatar of Dorian Gray
Jul 16, 2012 • 87 min
TOPICS: Better Meat & Working Backwards This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the many strategic and tactical benefits of reverse-engineering your next project. There is also extensive discussion of choosing, preparing, and cooking meat. It’s not food…
75: The Mayor of Perspective
Jul 9, 2012 • 87 min
TOPIC: Feeling Stuck in the Middle This week, Dan and Merlin talk about a topic suggested by listener, @toddsandends: what happens when you’re stuck enforcing rules you don’t agree with? Whether you’re a security guard, an RA, a SysAdmin, a character on…
74: Cheap Liberal Arts Relativism
Jul 2, 2012 • 84 min
TOPIC: How Much Honesty Can We Stand? This week, Dan and Merlin talk about how ridiculously complex “Honesty” can be. Do “Candor,” “Transparency,” “Frankness,” and all those other Capital Letter Nouns mean the same thing?
73: Permission to Unclench
Jun 25, 2012 • 100 min
TOPIC: Aspects of Letting Go This week, Dan and Merlin talk about two very different viewports into doing what you want to do and being who you want to be. There’s the non-fiddly value you earn from getting junk out of your head and into a place you trust…
72: Rocky Balboa Moment
Jun 18, 2012 • 87 min
TOPIC: Confidence, Courage, and the Problem with Thinking This week, Dan and Merlin talk about why we may or may not feel confident to do stuff. How do other people seem to get it so easily, and where do they find the courage? Well. You walk through The…
71: Sorry to Lose You as a Son
Jun 11, 2012 • 99 min
TOPIC: The Problem with Passive-Aggression. If that’s okay with you. This week, Dan and Merlin apologize if they’ve made you unhappy with an episode about passive-aggressiveness, wussy non-communication, and non-apology apologies. But, maybe, that’ll just…
70: Expectation Zero
Jun 5, 2012 • 85 min
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…
69: Seven Dwarfs of Bad Emotion
May 29, 2012 • 97 min
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…
68: The Black Queen is Killing Me
May 21, 2012 • 74 min
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…
67: Ad Hoc Bra
May 15, 2012 • 80 min
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,…
66: Horseradish on My Raccoon
May 7, 2012 • 83 min
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…
65: A Light Dusting of Life
May 3, 2012 • 90 min
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…
64: Frozen Poster
Apr 23, 2012 • 98 min
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…
63: Bold with the Scissors
Apr 16, 2012 • 80 min
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…
62: Cultural Molasses
Apr 9, 2012 • 62 min
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…
61: I Handed Him My Luke
Apr 2, 2012 • 69 min
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…
60: Living Inside an Unfinished Thing
Mar 26, 2012 • 70 min
Dan and Merlin consider how to rethink your work as a platform. It’s not just a job, or just a career, or (God forbid) just a brand—it’s about deciding when you need to take your time and attention pro. How the stuff you’ve made and done can be leveraged…
59: Brains All the Way Down
Mar 19, 2012 • 121 min
This week, Dan and Merlin tackle the problem of changing cultures at work. It’s not a snapshot, it’s not a kitchen table, and it may actually have surprisingly little to do with you. Which is complicated.
58: Girl with the QR Tattoo
Mar 12, 2012 • 72 min
TOPIC: Changing Inputs Dan turns Merlin’s technical difficulties into a discussion of discovering and paying attention to things that have a high ROI. It’s not about who you think you are, or the latest and loudest thing. You’ll miss something even if you…
57: Start with Anger, End with a Sign
Mar 5, 2012 • 93 min
Merlin and Dan talk about successful lawn care secrets and getting angry over dog poop, paper towels, duck crossings, and the Dark Side. No one ever saw the error of their ways because they saw a note from Management. Instead of counting piles and…
56: One Giant Beholder Dinosaur
Feb 28, 2012 • 87 min
TOPIC: The Cost of Clutter Merlin and Dan talk about your attachment to old coffee cups, Captain America glasses, and Grandma’s underwear cabinet—all the physical (and emotional) clutter that keeps you from making the things you love and having the life…
55: The Pickles Never Touch
Feb 21, 2012 • 107 min
TOPIC: Agency, Dignity, and Why We Work. This week Dan and Merlin ponder why there’s so much variability in the quality of our work. Whether we’re making code, scrubbing toilets, or stinking up the Arby’s, what explains our individual drive to do…
54: Freemium Mason
Feb 16, 2012 • 95 min
TOPIC: Grit and Care and Sacrifice Merlin and Dan talk about returning to paleo, the nature of wieners and discouragement, crown vic habits and anxiety addiction. You won’t beat it without a cocktail of grit and care with just the right amount of…
53: The Wages of Security
Feb 7, 2012 • 115 min
In the most average episode ever, Merlin and Dan talk physical and digital work environments so you can get going in the right direction and don’t have to spend all day on it. And, when do you know you don’t want 10 times more of something and what do you…
52: Walk the Coastline, Bitches
Jan 31, 2012 • 76 min
TOPIC: The Hidden Cost is the True Cost Merlin is back from MacWorldPipeiWorld to talk with Dan about the True Cost of iceberg lettuce, an anchor tenant, 20 minutes of your time, and how much of your life you’re going to eat sand. You don’t have a TARDIS…
51: Living Inside the Nonsense
Jan 24, 2012 • 82 min
TOPIC: Slipping on Dates, Sliding on Days Merlin and Dan talk about managing projects, scheduling calls, and being home when you scheduled a party. It SEEMS SO SIMPLE but then Jeannie has to go to Guam and slipping is your SOP. The way out of this…
50: The Pork Soup Paradox
Jan 17, 2012 • 84 min
TOPIC: What to do if you fear a layoff.
49: The Field of Completion
Jan 10, 2012 • 101 min
48: An Abrupt Existential Jerk
Jan 3, 2012 • 77 min
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…
47: Utter Failure & Hotel Steak
Dec 27, 2011 • 64 min
TOPIC: Resolving to skip the New Year’s resolutions.
46: Not Counting the Mezzanine
Dec 20, 2011 • 83 min
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…
45: Finagling the Tree Bag
Dec 13, 2011 • 69 min
Topic: The Narcissism of Small Differences
44: Circuitous Bridge of My Own Design
Dec 7, 2011 • 73 min
Topic: Moving from dumb nouns to awesome verbs.
43: I Return Null
Nov 30, 2011 • 58 min
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…
42: Coconut Headphones
Nov 22, 2011 • 76 min
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
Nov 15, 2011 • 81 min
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…
40: Dirty South Is Off the Menu
Nov 8, 2011 • 99 min
Dan and Merlin talk about what it means for Google to change the meaning of “plus,” and how it might bolster the production of “stuff and needy.” They also consider options for “getting unstuck” with a creative project—how, sometimes, the constraints can…
39: A Source of Rice with Velocity
Nov 1, 2011 • 80 min
On strength and tolerance. Dan and Merlin talk about the many facets of strength, including the complexity of knowing what to be strong about, to whom, and when. It’s about way more than nailing the “clean and jerk” or yelling at…
38: Sorry. You Can’t Have a Candle.
Oct 25, 2011 • 79 min
On improving presentation culture. Dan and Merlin talk about bombing the deck, advancing the slides, and striving to improve the self-perpetuating bad culture of presentations. Slide?!? (Also, kid germs in the spaghetti, meeting the angry corn guy, and…
37: It’s Never Not Everywhere
Oct 18, 2011 • 124 min
This week, Merlin loves and hates iCloud while loving and REALLY loving Dropbox. He and Dan observe angry corn, discuss emailing files to yourself, wonder what to do with an ugly photo, and explore Mr. Noodle’s brother, Mr. Noodle.
36: Writing on the Wind
Oct 11, 2011 • 81 min
Merlin Mann talks with Dan Benjamin about his dogged obsession with the flexibility of index cards—for propping up tables, giving very small cuts, and getting babies hygienically removed. Then, there is much talk of graphing your focal length against your…
35: Why My Pants Were On Fire
Sep 27, 2011 • 94 min
How to handle job interviews. Merlin and Dan can’t solve the problem of interviews being dumb, but Merlin will tell you what is wrong with you, how long you’ll have to wait for your resume to get you a job, how Larry Wall interviews for a Perl job, and…
34: Rectangular Door Conspiracy
Sep 20, 2011 • 64 min
How to say “no.” Merlin talks with Dan about saying No to toilet paper diamonds, mints on pillows, and things you don’t have the wallet for instead of saying Yes to a crate of bananas you don’t have enough information about or giving a qualified Yes to…
33: The Hypocrite You Can Live With
Sep 13, 2011 • 71 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin have a totally natural emotional reaction to the unreasonable demands they place on themselves after reading The Spongebob Report. Maybe they wouldn’t have offended non-ex-Marines if they had just taken some time and consulted…
32: The Beertruck Scenario
Sep 6, 2011 • 86 min
Merlin and Dan talk about Dan’s sabbatical, hotdogs, services, triggers, Quicksilver, Launchbar, and why there’s no ‘I’ in ‘ordnance.’
31: You Can Polish AC/DC All Day Long
Aug 30, 2011 • 102 min
With Dan on sabbatical, Merlin is joined by John Roderick of The Long Winters to talk about life as a bull in a china closet, craving real-world constraints, making better records, and being banned for life from Interpol’s corn chip bowl.
30: I’m Not Working in an Abattoir
Aug 23, 2011 • 60 min
With Dan on sabbatical, Merlin is joined by Jonathan Coulton to talk about traveling, horn sections, and Jonathan’s new album, “Artificial Heart.”
29: I Download FLAC
Aug 16, 2011 • 82 min
With Dan on sabbatical, TV’s Rob Corddry talks with Merlin about Getting Things Done, writing, fear, and finding success as a blood-soaked clown.
28: One Little Red Egg
Aug 9, 2011 • 85 min
Dan and Merlin talk about kid stuff, including the threat of Hot Wheels® donation, the inevitability of skinned knees, the nefariousness of the hospital gift basket, plus an important way every Dad has to go pro.
27: Danny, Hold the License Plate
Aug 2, 2011 • 84 min
Merlin and Dan discuss the shameful state of film school, the realities of Ape Law, Merlin’s rock opera, and the subliminal downside of Spongebob’s big promotion.
26: Spaghetti Guy Hits Close to Home
Jul 29, 2011 • 93 min
This week Wutang Dan and The MZA bring the ruckus to finding a job, selling your Mustang, and putting your house on the market: remember that you can’t negotiate with reality, Merlin can’t do anything to make you love him, enthusiasm is irreplaceable, and…
25: My Food Court of Functionality
Jul 22, 2011 • 73 min
Dan and Merlin talk about nerds getting problems and about using Markdown in BBEdit, Textmate or any text app because you need to find tools that remove friction, not distractions.
24: The Daddy for your Destiny
Jul 12, 2011 • 92 min
Dan’s in a closet, but Merlin has a lot of FU from the last show: good jobs don’t get posted on Craigslist and while you may not know what’s gonna happen next, you’re not just gonna install Xcode and retire on your angry bird so either do your research,…
23: Failure is ALWAYS an Option
Jul 5, 2011 • 77 min
This week, Dan and Merlin determine that even the Chico Marx of notebooks is the right one if you’re writing in it, failure is ALWAYS an option: fully committing didn’t do Pickett any good, but you should commit to narrowing scope and deciding what…
22: My Baby Likes Aluminum Foil!
Jun 28, 2011 • 70 min
This week, Merlin and Dan share their Pick: The Macintosh Computer. Also, a 17-minute experimental startup sound, catching conflicts, shivving the stagecoach, machine-gunning with SoundMaster, the dangers of ResEdit, and the future of recumbent bike…
21: Assistant TO the Regional Monkey
Jun 22, 2011 • 61 min
Merlin and Dan talk about the problem of permanent zeroes, desiring not to desire, why “hypocrisy” is killing you, stepping back on the path without apologizing, Merlin’s new tattoo, and—yeah—going a little easier on yourself. Also, how almost everything…
20: Muscle of Failure
Jun 14, 2011 • 73 min
Merlin and Dan talk about getting started, putting on your shoes instead of shopping for pedometers, false dilemmas, doing as much work with your hands as you’ve done in your head, why you should leave some water in the pump, meta-fiddling, and getting…
19: Corner Casey Kasem
Jun 7, 2011 • 82 min
Merlin and Dan talk about mindful tool adoption, screwdriver museums, why Vi users may (or may not) be cannibalistic insects—plus debate on whether a home video of a toy horse falling down in someone’s bathroom is about Humanity. Also, Dan effs with…
18: Forking the Question
May 31, 2011 • 85 min
Merlin and Dan talk about educating “That’s Just a Button Guy,” practicing more humane pushback, asking better questions, why laundromats don’t accept “focus,” plus what happens when you put WAY too much crap in your five-pound bag.
17: Brick Building Full of Lies
May 27, 2011 • 86 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about checking email under the table to catch up on your 27 high priority tasks, a good time to use the word priority, blowing cycles on meeting with Narnia’s stakeholders, and getting tasks out of your dreamcatcher.
16: Bracing for the Blow
May 18, 2011 • 72 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin aren’t afraid of lawyers, dentists, negative feelings, or of not being afraid of something.
15: Marionette of my own Design
May 10, 2011 • 60 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin are here to discuss the awareness of fear, asking yourself why, and knowing the problem instead of chasing fake confidence, patches, and hacks.
14: Velocity of Disappointment
May 3, 2011 • 67 min
Merlin Mann joins Dan Benjamin to talk about problems that are impossible, problems that are boring, problems that you’re scared of, and why you need to differentiate between fear and anxiety so you can be scared of something interesting.
13: The Kid’s Great
Apr 26, 2011 • 90 min
Dan and Merlin talk about “Cranking” - Merlin’s latest post at
12: Chewie’s Medal is Not Canonical
Apr 19, 2011 • 64 min
Merlin Mann has some “followup” before he and Dan Benjamin discuss entrusting your agency to others, how to reclaim it, and picking the right balance between expertise and challenge instead of fixing your metadata.
11: Johnny Heuristic
Apr 12, 2011 • 78 min
Merlin Mann joins Dan Benjamin to talk about evolution, investing in roulette, taking smarter chances and futureproofing your passion.
10: At Last the ‘Inspiration’ Show
Mar 29, 2011 • 81 min
9: Out of Scope!
Mar 22, 2011 • 71 min
Dan and Merlin improvise topics this week and get from Synechode, NY to dopamine, being scared and being safe, believing your thoughts and coloring your dreams, and solving problems by moving your hands instead of thinking.
8: Little Velvet Hands
Mar 15, 2011 • 73 min
This week, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin eighty-six their restaurant jobs—emptying grease traps, handling logs of meat, and sharing what they learned by bringing mostly bad food to America’s table. Dan burns velvet hands, Merlin’s Mom gives the guy with th
7: Vocational Wheel
Mar 8, 2011 • 82 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin relate to Richard–a listener in the middle of a quarter life crisis working jobs he doesn’t like–with stories from their pasts, suggestions to combat the cascade of seriousness, and some first steps for breaking out of the…
6: Expectational Debt
Mar 1, 2011 • 63 min
Merlin Mann is back from Webstock and ready to recap with Dan Benjamin, which leads back to caring first, performance and fear, meditation, hypnotherapy, and why you really need the hard answer instead just more tips.
5: Chigger Bites on the Bus Driver
Feb 15, 2011 • 79 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about the black art of paying attention to the right things, how lamps are no substitute, that it’s hard whether you’re working from home or a cube, being honest about your expertise before looking for independence, and…
4: Failing with Style
Feb 8, 2011 • 63 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about trying to change other people, how things really aren’t that bad, balancing fear or being driven by fear, leaving capacity for when you get The Pitch, procrastination (eventually), and giving yourself permission to…
3: The Second Arrow
Feb 1, 2011 • 70 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss ADD, Buddhism, mindfulness, concentration, and insight.
2: Picture of a Boat
Jan 25, 2011 • 68 min
Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin formulate a five-minute warning tactic before discussing the reality of bringing change to your company, some patterns that work for startups, solving the right problem at the right level, why you can’t find the innovation…
1: Alligator in the Bathroom
Jan 18, 2011 • 89 min
In the inaugural episode of Back to Work, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss why they’re doing this show, getting back to work instead of buying berets, the lizard brain, and compare the Shadow of the Mouse to San Francisco, and eventually get to some…