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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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