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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 June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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