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10+ Things to Do with Dry-Erase Markers

10+ Things to Do with Dry-Erase Markers

As both a teacher and an office supply junkie, I always have plenty of dry-erase markers handy. Which is a good thing, because I use them all the time — usually without a white board anywhere in sight.

Here’s just some of the things you can do with dry-erase markers:

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  1. Label your frozen foods: Use a dry-erase marker to write the contents and date on the lid of your storage containers when you put stuff in the freezer. This way a) there’s no more guessing what this frozen lump is meant to be, and b) you can tell at a glance if food is way past any reasonable use-by date. Check for erasability by marking one piece and freezing it overnight — try erasing with a paper towel and, if any mark is left, see if it comes off in the wash. Some containers have textured lids that make erasing a pain.
  2. Make notes on your bathroom mirror: Dry-erase markers write beautifully on glass. The bathroom mirror is usually one of the first things you see in the morning, so it’s a great place to write reminders, jot down quick notes, or send love messages to your partner. Or, of course, you can draw devil horns and a goatee around your face — that’s good too.
  3. Make a dry-erase card: Cover an index card with clear 3″ packing tape and voila! A pocket-sized white board. Use it to brainstorm on the go, erase, and use it again.
  4. Map your mind: If an index card isn’t enough to contain the contents of your mind, try sticking a sheet of paper in a plastic sheet protector and writing on that. You can even print out templates for different styles of mind-mapping or brainstorming, and quickly erase or edit your thoughts.
  5. Label file drawers or shelves: Metal file drawers and shelves with smooth finishes (e.g. formica) can be labeled with dry-erase markers and re-labeled with ease.
  6. Write vocabulary words on your glass shower door: If you have a glass shower, you can write lists of words or other information you want to learn on the outside and read it while you shower. Of course, you need to write backwards. This works best if there are light-colored walls in your bathroom.
  7. Mark miles or date of next service inside your car’s windshield:A lot of service shops put a little plastic sticker with the date or mileage when you’ll need your next oil change or tune-up; if yours doesn’t, use a fine-tip dry-erase marker to write it yourself in an out-of-direct-sight corner of your windshield.
  8. Write on your desk: Get a glass or acrylic desk pad (you may have to put a sheet of poster board underneath if your desk isn’t light-colored) and write notes, todo lists, phone numbers, or anything else directly onto your desktop. As you finish tasks, simply wipe them away.
  9. Remove permanent marker The solvent in dry-erase markers will dissolve many permanent marker inks — just scribble over the permanent mark and wipe away with a paper towel. You may have to do this more than once to clean it off entirely.
  10. You can even write on a whiteboard! No kidding — you can use dry-erase markers on whiteboards, just like they were intended to be used. Here’s a few ideas:
    • Time/work tracking: Set a small whiteboard next to your computer or workstation and mark down the time you spend working on each task, or the amount of work you’ve done each day. I use this for writing: each day, I write down how many words I’ve written that day on whatever major project I’m working on at the moment.
    • Goal tracker: Write down mileposts and erase them or check them off as you finish each one.
    • Grocery lists:Use permanent marker to list your most-used items and make a dry-erase check next to them as they run out. Make check-boxes out of black electrical tape cut into thin strips.
    • Your morning routine: Write down the things you need to do to get out the door in the morning (e.g. brush teeth, shower, shave, eat, iron pants, dress, etc.) and how much time each task should take. Use it to make sure you’re running on time as you get ready to face the day.

Be sure to test your dry-erase marker on any new surface you intend to mark with it — some surfaces don’t erase very well (our 5-year old and his friend from across the street demonstrated this nicely on our latex-painted kitchen wall…). Likewise, some brands of marker erase better than others — I’m not usually a “brand whore”, but I always use Expo brand markers because I’ve been burned by other brands and generics that leave permanent or semi-permanent marks.

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What else do you use dry-erase markers for? Let us know in the comments!

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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