Dec. 24, 2012 at 1:59 PM ET
Q. I'm going home for the holidays, and my parents have a very slow connection. Do you have any tips for getting my work done effectively when everything's moving slower than molasses?
Separate your Internet-heavy work and postpone it
A. Before you start making tweaks to your browser and computer, it's a good idea to take stock of what work you have and separate it into two categories. GigaOM explains:
Divide your tasks into bandwidth-heavy and bandwidth-light. Evaluate your routine web tasks and see which ones you can do with a slow connection, and which ones require a faster, more reliable one. This is especially important if your mobile Internet provider charges based on bandwidth usage instead of time. Aliza Sherman did something similar in a previous post, to help her work around bandwidth limits.
This is particularly useful if you know you're going to be stuck on a slow connection, but even if you get yourself in a bind, you can still do some re-prioritization quickly. If you have some Internet-heavy tasks that can't wait, you should delegate them to someone else if you can — heck, even offer to pick up some of your co-workers' Internet-light load if they can help you out.
Tweak your browser for low-speed connections
Chances are, your browser isn't exactly primed for slow Internet speeds. So, we recommend grabbing a second browser that you can tweak to work better with slow connections. Opera is a great choice, because it has a Turbo Mode that optimizes the Web for faster loading, but no matter what, there are a number of tweaks you can make to speed up your browser, like:
With these few tweaks in place, you should find things run a little smoother and you won't be stuck waiting for pages quite as long.
Use mobile, HTML or other low-footprint sites
These days, a lot of websites load up their pages with junk that isn't really a problem when you have a normal high-speed connection, but can really bog things down when your connection is limited. Some of them have alternatives in place.
Gmail, for example, has a handy HTML version that you can use to cut down on the crap when you need to get into your email quicker. You can also see if a specific site has a mobile version, designed for smartphones. Most mobile sites will only load if you're actually on a mobile device, though, so you'll want to change your browser's user agent to make sites recognize you as a smartphone.
Work outside your browser whenever possible
The more you stay in your browser, the longer you'll be waiting for pages to load. Travel website Gadling recommends transferring as much of that work outside your browser as possible. For example, if you write on a blog or do any work in Google Docs, transfer that to a desktop app like Microsoft Office or LibreOffice for the time being. Heck, you can even compose an email in Notepad while you wait for it to load — don't waste any time watching a progress bar when you could be doing something else.
When you do have to work in your browser, try not to put too much stress on it. Open one tab at a time, so you aren't trying to load a bunch of pages at once (since it'll take them longer, and you can only read one at a time). Close tabs you aren't using often, as they can often take up bandwidth even if you aren't looking at them.
Turn off bandwidth-sucking background apps
With all the focus on your browser, you may forget that other apps like Dropbox might be taking up precious bandwidth in the background. Close any and all of those you don't need to do your work, or put them into offline mode so they aren't constantly checking if they need to sync. Some apps may require some foresight for this to work: Notational Velocity and ResophNotes will work fine without a connection, for example, but Evernote will require you to go into its settings and download your notebooks before it'll work in offline mode.
When all else fails, find better Wi-Fi
No one wants to rush around all day trying to find better Internet, but if what you're using is just too slow, look elsewhere. Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, and if at first you don't succeed, find a faster hotspot. You won't be able to do this all day if you have work to get done, but you should be able to find something that's somewhat workable for the time being.
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