Merlin Mann knows what it's like to be scared to check your email. He also knows what it's like to have a job that didn't exist 20 years ago, a job that isn't represented by the animal characters in Richard Scarry books or that can't be explained in a sentence to someone actually watching you do it.
His talk Tuesday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater is titled "Who Moved My Brain: Revaluing Time and Attention" which, like Mann's previous work with 43folders.com and Inbox Zero, attempts to help people cut through the chaos inherent in figuring out how to do your job, let alone build a career, in the so-called knowledge economy.
To paraphrase from one of his online videos, if someone was stealing money out of your wallet every day at work, you would do something about it. But what are you doing about those who are stealing your time and attention every day?
Because Mann has worked in the knowledge economy, because he's a "scarred veteran of the dot-com era," his perspective as a productivity expert is a little more intriguing, relevant and, often, hilarious. That's also partly due to his skill as a performer, evident in his series of "That Phone Guy" videos.
Mann has also been successful at developing his personal brand, to use a nauseatingly overused term. But unlike those who simply generate a lot of noise with their names attached, Mann's online creations are engaging, funny and often pretty thought provoking.