When you’re in a rush, behind schedule, or distracted, you’re more likely to make errors than when you are relaxed and attentive in the present. I’ve made mistakes when my mind has been running out of control — I’ve found my keys in the refrigerator, I’ve driven the wrong way down a one-way street, and typos have made their way onto the Unclutterer homepage.
One of the benefits of living as an unclutterer — choosing to get rid of the distractions that get in the way of a remarkable life — is that you have very few or no distractions to disrupt your focus. You don’t constantly worry about forgetting things because you have lists, calendars, and systems in place to manage your time and responsibilities. You aren’t anxious about completing a project on time because you no longer procrastinate. You don’t accidentally put your keys in the refrigerator because they have a designated place to live near your front door.
A neuroscientist at the University of Illinois, Arthur Kramer, in “Ageing, Fitness and Neurocognitive Function” (link is a PDF) in Nature magazine, reports on another way to improve your ability to focus and brain cognition. The answer: Regularly participating in aerobic exercise. From The Invisible Gorilla, pages 222 and 223, discussing Kramer’s study:
… aerobic exercise more effectively improves the health of your heart and increases blood flow to your brain … You don’t need to compete in triathlons; just walking a reasonable clip for thirty minutes or more a few times a week leads to better executive functioning and a healthier brain … Exercise improves cognition broadly by increasing the fitness of your brain itself.
As you’re working on your uncluttering efforts, consider adding thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week to your schedule. If your typical attitude is that you don’t have time to exercise, the reality might be that exercise will help your ability to focus, which can help you to be more efficient with your time. An hour and a half a week of exercise could be an important step on your path to an uncluttered life.