Hello All In community! Today’s wisdom comes to you from Jennifer Garner, Founder Refined Interiors. Jennifer is one of the few women I know that has an innate talent for knowing how to balance. She instinctively knows how to prioritize to create a fulfilling professional and personal life. We are so grateful to learn from Jennifer!

I am a mother of two, wife to one, boss and owner of a small, but growing business and keeper of a valuable person – myself. I find practicing balance is key. And by practicing balance I mean all of the constant tiny adjustments one must make in order to achieve balance, if only for a time. If one of these areas suffers, then they all can suffer. The daily juggle seems to be which role weighs the scale a bit more on that day, and to what outcome. So here’s my version of practicing balance in my personal, and business life.

As a mother, I must balance the work vs. quality time with my children; which is a struggle for any working parent. There is the guilt of being a working mom, but I console that guilt by offering my children, especially my daughter, a strong role model by being a successful business owner. A common motto in our home is to lead by example. So I make efforts to always be there when they get home, to prepare home cooked meals, help with homework and projects. We host their friends at our house on the weekends. We eat dinner as a family each night; discussing events from our day. Yet the most important thing can sometimes be the hardest when work is weighing on my mind that is to be present. Which means connecting, and listening and being there. I have not found the answer for this balance, but I practice on a daily basis, because my career, and business mean nothing without my family to share it with.

As a wife, and a business owner I must maintain the balance of being present for my spouse too. Being there to hear about his day, as much as venting to him about mine. While my business is my creative outlet, and the major source of our income, it is mine alone. I cannot diminish his work and contribution to our family and future. As a business owner something is always weighing on your mind. It’s not as easy to leave all thoughts of work behind at the office come 5:00PM. I make a point to use the commute time as a time to mentally debrief from the day. I spend the hours between kiddo bedtime and my bedtime not checking emails and prepping for the next day, but spending quality time with my spouse. We take vacations with just the two of us, to make sure our connection is strong. I must make a concerted effort to listen, nurture and enjoy time with my spouse, as he is my source of support and constant encouragement. If your relationships are not happy and in order it spills into work in a negative way.

So for maintaining the balance of home and family vs. career and work I make a point to try and compartmentalize the two. I have some rules that I try to adhere to such as: stopping work by 5:30 each day, not checking emails in the evening before bed, definitely not checking email on a Sunday evening, no smart phones at the dinner table, not beginning work until everyone is gone for the day. Being resolute enough to accept only necessary after work invitations to events. To some this may seem like sacrificing opportunities to advance my business, but for me it’s putting my family first, which is exactly as if should be.

As a business owner, and the boss I must balance my managerial duties while still being approachable for my staff. I wish to empower them to be creative and take initiative while maintaining control as our leader. I find asking their input, and using open-ended questions with the request to have their truthful responses. We brain storm as a team, and I encourage them to run with ideas. I’d been using this sort of managerial style in hopes of building loyalty and getting the best work out of my team by making them feel empowered. When I realized there is hard science to back up this method after listening to the episode 34 of the podcast “Hidden Brain”, titled “Google at Work”. They show looks at research Google has done in its own recruiting, hiring and managerial practices.

As a business owner in a field where I am frequently the person giving direction to men, I’ve found it hard to determine how to play my role. I’ve tried different tactics to get things accomplished per my direction without being met with push back. So, the balance to strike is between being a leader with feminine qualities of social politeness verses masculine qualities of being direct and assertive. While listening to the podcast “Hidden Brain” episode 48: “Men: 44, Women: 0” they discussed the paradox of how women in leadership roles are being passed up due to gender stereotyping. Researchers said that women are trapped in a catch 22 known as the “double bind”. This study released today by Catalyst, the non-profit organization working to advance opportunities for women and business. So while the news wasn’t encouraging, it was eye opening that this balance of being an assertive leader while still being viewed as competent and likeable is culturally driven.

Lastly, as a human being living in my own skin I must balance the demands of family, and work while still carving out time for myself. I take to heart the importance of nurturing one’s inner self, as much as the outer. I have begun practicing mindfulness via a daily meditation. There is much research available on the benefits of practicing mindfulness for enhancing work performance. I practice it to manage stress. I find this intentional quiet time allows my mind to be calm, recharges my daily focus, and reduces my stress. While not for everyone, I find this to be a valuable tool in being more effective at all areas of my life. I’ve even added an app to my smart phone called “Head Space” which has short guided meditations you can do almost any place you can find to be calm and quiet.

By Jennifer Garner


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