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Review: Undress for Success

Review: Undress for Success

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    Kate Lister and Tom Harnish have been working at home for years. For sixteen years, they operated a home business. They’ve codified the advice they’ve generated in a ll those years of working at home in a new book, Undress for Success. The book covers an introduction to moving towards a home office, with a heavy emphasis on teleworking.

    Telecommuting And You

    Section titles like ‘Expose Yourself — Are Your Right for E-work?’ or ‘Dirty Underwear — Uncovering the Scams’ do add an element of fun to what is essentially a book on changing your career. It is easy to read — the writing style reminds me of a blog. Each section is broken down into chapters, which are then subdivided into bite-sized pieces of information on specific topics. Even though the book is 262 pages, I was able to breeze through it, bookmarking sections I wanted to come back to later.

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    The five primary sections of Undress for Success cover the basics of e-work (meaning work you can do from home over your computer), telecommuting, freelancing, running your own home business, and the appropriate technology. Far and away, the emphasis of the book is on telecommuting: that section racks up 114 pages. In comparison, freelancing gets just 38 pages. I wouldn’t really recommend the book as the introduction to all things freelance or entrepreneurial — but its coverage of telecommuting and teleworking is solid.

    The Bare Bones of Working At Home

    Lister and Harnish are careful to point out that working from home is not for everyone. They interviewed scores of folks who work at home, talking about the challenges they face and how they cope with them. My favorite was easily the approach one programmer named Madison takes to make sure her family knows when she’s on the job and has to focus on her work: “To make sure everyone knows when she isn’t available, she wears a tiara when she’s ‘at work.'”

    It’s hard to guess the coping mechanisms you’ll come up with when you’re working at home yourself, but the fact that Undress for Success actually gets its hands dirty with the various problems someone working at home faces certainly makes it a better resource.

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    The book also includes several chapters on convincing an employer to let you make the switch to working at home — up to and including helping you outline the benefits that making the switch to telecommuting will bring to your employer. While we’ve discussed talking to your boss about telecommuting here recently, Lister and Harnish have the room to go into depth in covering that topic thoroughly.

    Another useful portion of the telecommuting section is the focused look at a number of careers that Undress for Success offers. Those include:

    • Call Center Agent
    • Virtual Assistant
    • Medical Transcriptionist
    • Teacher or Tutor
    • Remote Tech
    • Writer
    • Telemedicine

    For each of those careers, there is a chapter covering what you can expect, training, scheduling, compensation and even stories from workers in the trenches. There’s even information on the scams in each career, equipping you to avoid them.

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    The Drawbacks to ‘Undress for Success’

    While Lister and Harnish provide a solid reference on telecommuting, along information on handling issues like convincing your family that you’re actually at work even if you are still in your pajamas, I think that Undress for Success is missing something. That something is a discussion of other work-at-home options beyond telecommuting. The sections on freelancing and starting a home business are fairly bare bones — and since moving into freelancing is essentially creating a business, I don’t think that dividing the two into separate sections really helped.

    At best, Undress for Success offers just enough information on creating your own business to get you thinking, “Hm, I could do that.” If you were to decide to go that route based on this particular book, though, you’ll still find yourself looking for a lot of introductory level material. It is important to do plenty of research before embarking on any entrepreneurial venture, but I can’t help feeling that the book could have included a little more information on getting started. I know that Lister and Harnish have written about small business topics before — their first book was Finding Money: The Small Business Guide to Financing — perhaps they were able to go more in-depth on business topics there.

    Readability and Moving Forward

    Overall, I found Undress for Success very readable — and very interesting. It does overreach a bit, but if you’re looking for information on moving into telecommuting, this book is an ideal starting point. Furthermore, if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to sitting down and plowing through a book, the format works well: each section is just short enough that you can read one whenever you actually have a minute. In Undress for Success, Kate Lister and Tom Harnish have brought together an introductory guide to working at home that provides a starting point for readers to explore telecommuting and teleworking. You can find more information at their website, also named Undress for Success.

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    If you’ve been considering making the switch to working at home, I’m interested in hearing what books, websites and other resources have helped you in the decision making process — no matter what option you wound up going with. I know that books like Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week have inspired more than a few people to explore telecommuting, but what else is out there. Please share your resources in the comments.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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