Jira for beginners: 7 tricks to make your life easier

Learn how to use Jira like a pro with these tips and tricks for beginners.
If you've recently started at a new company or joined a new team and find yourself overwhelmed with Jira, don't worry! It's normal to feel like nothing makes sense at first, and you might be feeling frustrated or even angry.
But before you give up on Jira altogether, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier. First, remember that Jira may appear complicated at first glance, but it's actually built upon a few simple principles. Once you understand these principles, you'll be able to navigate Jira more easily and keep your boards and issues under control. Although Jira offers a lot of customization options, most companies use the basic setup with minimal customization. So, once you get the hang of the basics, you'll be in good shape.

Learn the hierarchy

Understanding Jira's hierarchy is key to getting the hang of the platform. Jira has a clear hierarchy: the Jira instance, which is the main site, and individual projects. Typically, each project represents either a team or a specific product/project. Before diving into Jira, take some time to determine which project(s) you need to use. Projects are identified by a name, like "Sending Man to Moon," and a key consisting of a few letters. Each issue created in a project has a unique identifier that includes the project key and number, such as "SMM-23 - Build a spaceship".

Inside each project, you'll find several issue types. The most common ones are Epics, Stories, Tasks, Bugs, and Subtasks. Epics are a parent issue type that groups related issues together, allowing you to track the progress of the whole thing. They are ideal for large product features, milestones, or other complex pieces of work that need to be broken down. Stories, Bugs, Tasks, and other issue types, which may vary based on your Jira admin's configuration, can be nested under Epics and further broken down into Subtasks. In most projects, you'll have three levels of hierarchy: Epics, everything else, and Subtasks.

Bookmark your board

One of the most useful features of Jira is boards, which display a collection of issues based on pre-set parameters. Boards can show all issues of a single project or display issues from multiple projects based on shared labels (or other parameters defined in the board's filter). There are two types of boards in Jira - Scrum and Kanban - depending on the framework your team uses. Your team likely uses only one board, which is usually nested under a particular project. However, finding your board can be tricky, especially if your team has multiple projects. To save time and frustration, bookmark the boards your team uses on a daily basis. This way, you can easily access your board without having to click through multiple projects each time. Finding the right board can be one of the most challenging tasks in Jira, so don't waste your time on it.

Practice advanced issue search

Advanced issue search is one of the coolest features of Jira, but it may seem overwhelming to beginners. However, you don't have to learn it all at once. Start with something simple, like searching for all issues assigned to you by typing assignee="your name" in the search bar. This creates a filter showing only the issues assigned to you, which is a great start. To further refine your search, try adding operators and functions like AND and project="project name". This will show you all the issues assigned to you that belong to a specific project.

By practicing Jira filters, you can gradually expand your ability to search for issues based on more complicated scenarios. You'll always be able to find the issues assigned to you, in certain statuses, and which require your immediate attention. Advanced issue search may take some time to learn, but once you do, it will be a powerful tool for managing your work in Jira.

Build your own board or dashboard

Building your own board or dashboard is a powerful feature of Jira that is often overlooked. It allows you to create customized views that display the issues that are most important to you. You can create as many boards and dashboards as you need, and they won't affect anyone else in the organization. You can even keep your personal dashboard under your own space, so no one else will have access to it.

The beauty of this feature is that you can set up your own filters on your personal board or dashboard. By doing so, you can track issues that belong only to you, ensuring you never lose track of them. Additionally, you can easily monitor the progress of issues that are relevant only to your work. Just remember to ensure that all your issues are properly assigned so they appear on your board. Overall, this feature can significantly improve your workflow and help you stay on top of your work.

Use labels

Jira has several tools that can help you categorize, prioritize, and manage issues, and labels are among the most useful. Creating a label is easy; simply place the cursor in the "labels" field of the issue and begin typing the label you want to add. As you type, existing labels will appear as suggestions, but you can also add a completely new label. For instance, if you are the only lawyer in the company and want to ensure you don't miss any issues in Jira that require your attention, simply add "legal" to the labels field whenever you come across such an issue. If you work for a large organization with thousands of existing labels, it's best to check with the team to see which labels they use and which ones are appropriate for you. Generally, adding a label won't create any issues or cause any problems for the team.

Get your board ordered by rank

Jira allows you to easily prioritize your issues by just drag and dropping them, and changing their order on the board. However, it's important to keep in mind that for this feature to work, the board filter needs to include the "ORDER by Rank ASC (or DESC)" code at the end. Once you're comfortable with using Jira boards, check the board settings and ensure that this code is included in the filter to enable smooth prioritization. It's worth noting that changing the order of issues on one board will also change the order on all other boards where those issues appear. With this feature, you can ensure that the most important issues are always at the top of the list, making it easier to stay on top of your workload.

Make changes in bulk

Jira's bulk changes feature is a powerful tool that allows you to make updates to multiple issues simultaneously. Once you're familiar with Jira's advanced search, you can use it to filter issues based on certain criteria, then select the issues you want to change and apply bulk actions. For example, you can move issues to a different project, change their status, or modify their attributes such as assignee, label, or component. However, it's important to be careful when using bulk changes, as it can affect multiple issues at once. Before making any changes, double-check that you have selected the correct issues and that the changes you make will not impact other team members or processes. Also, keep in mind that some changes may be restricted to certain statuses, projects, or issue types. With these precautions in mind, bulk changes can save you a lot of time and effort by avoiding the need to make individual updates to each issue.

Jira is an incredibly powerful tool that can seem overwhelming at first, but with a bit of practice, it can become your closest ally in managing projects efficiently. By streamlining workflows and automating tedious tasks, Jira can save you countless hours and boost your productivity. If you're new to Jira or want to take your skills to the next level, our Jira Essentials course is tailored specifically for beginners and can help you master the basics in no time.
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