About What Works
“We have become a civilization based on work—
not even ‘productive work’ but work as an end and meaning in itself.”
— David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory
Hi, I’m Tara McMullin. I’m a writer, podcaster, and producer.
And… I think about work all the time.
That’s not as boring (or neurotic) as it sounds.
I think about how we can work less, why our relationships to work are changing, and what conditions we need to do remarkable work. I’m curious about how social, economic, and political systems impact how work informs our identities.
What Works is a podcast and newsletter for humans navigating the 21st-century economy.
I study business owners, independent workers, and emerging workplace trends to discover what we need from work—and what needs to change to make the future of work sustainable.
I draw on research on organizational psychology, sociology, and media. I make use of social and political philosophy, critical theory, and ethnography. And I interview people who are making unconventional choices about how they work.
I’m a feminist and a progressive—and I don’t hide it.
I’m also autistic (which I’ve written about for Fast Company and The Muse). I live with chronic depression and anxiety.
When I’m not thinking about work (and quite often when I am), I’m a runner, paddleboarder, hiker, bookworm, wife, mother, and podcast listener.
In 2022, I released my first book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting.
The book deconstructs the political and cultural systems that influence how and why we set goals—and then rebuilds a goal-setting system that makes room for our many needs, desires, and identities.
“Impeccably well-written, thoroughly researched…
this book made me want to stand up and applaud”
— Sarah Peck, founder of Startup Parent
I also speak on mental health, the evolving workplace, and the systems that make work-life harder than it needs to be.
I’m currently working on a coaching framework for managers and coaches based on my book, What Works, as well as a podcast series on what we can learn about the future of work from science fiction.
I think about work so you don’t have to.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. I want you to think about work and ask really hairy questions about why we do what we do and believe what we believe.
But what I do is excavate research, theories, and stories about how we could construct a more equitable world of work—without forgetting those who don’t work. I connect ideas across multiple disciplines and show how we can approach things differently, both as individuals who work and as a class of working people.
And this work takes time. It takes mental and emotional bandwidth.
When you become a paying subscriber to What Works, you support me so I can support you.
You also support my ability to make almost everything I do free of charge.
Free subscribers get 1-2 essays per week.
When you upgrade to paid, you get:
the This is Not Advice column, where I work through a readers’ question to provide context and an alternative perspective (or a few)—but not advice
the chance to submit your question or topic for This is Not Advice
a monthly bonus podcast episode called “Context Curious”
10% off YellowHouse.Media workshops
sneak peeks of works in progress
Best of What Works
This series takes a deep dive into the business and politics of self-help. I unpacked how self-help language divides us into winners and losers, how our bodies are subject to discipline and control, how influencers shape our perception of personal growth, and more.
“She Looks Like an Instagram”: How Empowerment Became a Brand
The Body at Work: Why Self-Control is the #1 Rule of the 21st-Century Economy
Hustle Culture: How Did We Get Here? And What Do We Do About It?
The Economics of Work
The Economic Functions of Busyness: From Convenience to Debt
Work & Mental Health
The Satisfaction of Practice in an Achievement-Oriented World