Are company meetings getting you down? Do you find yourself hoping for a productive meeting but wind up stuck in a conference room for an hour (or more) wondering what the point was? Is half your day stolen away from you due to one meeting invite after another and you feel obligated to attend? Bring meaning back into meetings with these 4 tips to help make the most of them. Getting together with co-workers to make progress is possible if you implement changes that will move the needle rather than having you feeling like you're being poked in the eye with one!

1. Have a Clear-Cut Objective

What's the plan, Stan? Your meeting needs a plan and purpose. As per Forbes, "Before you send that calendar invite, ask yourself: What do I seek to accomplish?" Not only will this give a clear-cut definition of what your motives and goals are, but your attendees will come prepared with useful tools and talking points.

As Effective Meetings notes, "The more concrete your meeting objectives, the more focused your agenda will be. (Another) benefit of having specific objectives for each meeting is that you have a concrete measure against which you can evaluate that meeting."

Learn what works and what needs improvement. The next meeting and those thereafter will be more fine-tuned and worth the effort.

2. Come Prepared

Speaking of arriving well-prepared, both the meeting organizer(s) and the invitees must have adequate time and resources to best position themselves to bring well-thought out material, information, and data to the meeting in order for it to be as effective and fruitful as possible.

According to The Muse, "Figure out what you already know about the topic of the meeting, and determine if there's anything you need to research and learn beforehand. Jot down a few questions that you plan to ask in the meeting."

Without pre-planning, the meeting may not deliver the results expected. Participants who come with ammo are the ones who will collectively shoot for the stars with the most accurate aim.

3. Watch the Clock

A meeting needs a defined start and end time. There are only so many hours in a day, and people have work to do. Be sure your meeting starts promptly and is run in a fashion that allows for a resolution once the bell rings. Like Entrepreneur notes, "If you don't start your meetings on time, chances are you won't end on time. Then the next meeting starts late. Before you know it, the entire day is off schedule."

Be sure to create and stick to an organized agenda. Forbes notes, "Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting, along with a timeline that allots a certain number of minutes to each item, and email it to people in advance." Entrepreneur adds, "By sending the agenda 24 hours in advance you give people a chance to prepare and make most of the time."

By making it clear that you value and respect the time of your co-workers, they will reciprocate. This creates a harmonious workplace and a day that delivers results by closing time.

4. Follow Up

Meetings have a goal to make something happen, so you'll need to follow up to be sure all assigned tasks are underway or completed. According to Entrepreneur, "Before you end your meetings make sure you recap any immediate actions and assign them to the appropriate owners."

After the meeting, send a brief email to all participants with the meeting's highlights and takeaways. As per Meetings.org, "Meeting minutes are very helpful as a reminder to everyone of what happened during the meeting and what is meant to be done now, by whom and by what date. It is good practice to circulate the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting has taken place."

Following up will keep participants accountable and responsible for their portion of the workload and keep everyone in-the-know about the projects and plans moving forward. With proper follow-up, the meeting's initial goals will be kept in check and reached with a solidified group effort.

Now it's time to plan your next meeting that will be smoother and more successful than in the past. But before you reserve the conference room, read "Can This Meeting Be an Email" and save everyone some time.

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.