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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 January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

More About Self-Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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