How I’ve Been Using Jira as To-Do List to Improve My Productivity

Alexander Ang
7 min readJun 6, 2021


Jira Logo


I am a forgetful person, not gonna lie. I wrote everything down, otherwise I will forget it instantly. Also, keeping a note on what you need to do can free up spaces on your head. I always think of our brain like how a computer RAM (Random Access Memory or just memory, to keep things simple) works. If you memorize things, it will take your “RAM” space (short term memory), and will impact the performance of your brain. The longer you’re trying to memorize, the impact will be bigger.

I start writing on to-do list from when I was in high school, I use it to list my homework and exam date. But back then I’m doing it pen to paper, writing it down on a book or paper, and put it on the wall.

When I was in university and living on my own, keeping a to-do list is a must because there’s plenty of things you need to remember, from homework to shopping list. But in that age, smartphone comes with a great set of features. People has gotten familiar with it. I use my phone to write everything, including a to-do list. I even take note on a class using my phone, instead of writing it on a book. I rarely write pen to paper that I only need one book for the last 3 years of my university study.

Migrating from Plain To-Do List

If you are working on a software engineering field or have been on a scrum based team before, you’re probably familiar with Jira. Otherwise, I’m not going further on that in this post, but you can learn more about Jira and it’s details here.

Now I assume you already know Jira, or maybe Trello. Both pretty much aim at the same goals, I have used both, but I’m more familiar with Jira so I’m gonna explain what I’ve done and how I’ve been using Jira to achieve a higher level of productivity.

“Why do you need to use Jira? Just use a to-do list on your phone then”, you may asked. Well, I still use to-do list on my phone, the same app like 5 years ago. But now I’m only using it to write things when I’m away from my computer. When I got home, I will move it to my board on Jira.

The reason why I use Jira is, it’s more than a to-do list. It’s basically a project tracking tools. You can create task, fill in the description, label it, score it, plan when to do it, and much more. After you finish your weekly plan, you can also review it using various reports.


To start using Jira, you have to create an Atlassian account, and then navigate to Jira. From Jira dashboard or home, click on “Create project”. I use Kanban for the template, and choose team-managed project type. After that, type in your project name and key (initial), and you’re ready to roll!

You can create your task (called issue on Jira) on the backlog menu. Here’s mine:

Backlog — Backlog Issue List

Backlog is where you put your tasks that isn’t assigned to the next sprints, or just simply that you haven’t decide when to do. Click on “create sprint” button on the top right to plan for the next sprint. I divide sprints weekly, so there’s four sprints each month (ex: January week 1–4).

Here’s an example of my ongoing sprint:

Backlog — Ongoing Sprint

For the task type, I only use story and epic. Epic is like the big picture of issues, on software development it can be a project or a feature. I treat epic as an issue category, as you can see on the image above, there’s like a label on the right side of each story.

In the real project, story is issue related to user features. I use it to list my to-do list tasks. Read more about issue types here.

You can start by categorizing your task types, break it down into epics, then create a story and link it with the epic.

I also plan for the next week. I put tasks that I know I have to do the next week here. On the right side you can see a number on each story. It’s called story points, an estimation of effort needed to finish that story. It uses a fibonacci number (kinda), so like 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, and so on (points larger than 20 will usually broken into smaller stories).

Backlog — Next Sprint

One of the stories above includes writing this medium post. Yeah, it’s from May week 2 but now it’s already June week 1 when I’m writing this, forgive my procrastination (lol). And yes, I gave it 20 story points for because I’m too lazy so it’s considered a heavy work to do.

When you click on “Active sprints” menu, it will shows a kanban board display like the one below:

Active Sprint

Here is where you organize your ongoing week. When you first start a sprint, all the new issues will be on the left side, on the “to do” column. When you’re already doing that issue, move it to “in progress” column. Move it again to “done” column when it’s finished.

On the “Roadmap” menu, you can view all your epics that you’ve created. I use this roadmap menu to view issues related to certain epics. I didn’t really use the roadmap timeline because all the epics are for the lifetime.

I have five epics:

  1. Knowledge: things that will increase my knowledge, like reading books, reports, articles, and watching informational videos.
  2. Routine: recurring issue either weekly or monthly, like exercising.
  3. Chores: house activities, mostly cleaning this and that.
  4. Weekend: issue that can only be resolved on weekend, usually requires travelling.
  5. Career: issue that can improve my career progression, like building portfolio and writing (on Medium, this post included :D).

You can modify your epics (issue category) based on your needs.

Roadmap (Epics)

After you finish a sprint, you can review your progress on the “Reports” menu. There’s various report types that you can use. I only use sprint report and velocity chart.

By using sprint report, you can see finished sprint burndown. This is useful to track your progress throughout the sprint. You can also see on which day or which part of the week that you’re most productive.

Report — Sprint Report Burndown

Sprint report also provides all the issue in that sprint, including completed issues, incompleted issues, and issues removed from sprint.

Report — Sprint Report Status

Another report that I like to use is the velocity chart. This report can help you compare how productive you are on each sprint, by using total number of story points completed on that sprint.

From graph below, there’s grey and green bar. Gray bar represents number of story points commitment, and green bar represents number of story points completed. If you completed all the issue on a sprint, and there’s no scope change (adding or removing issue on an ongoing sprint), the gray and green bar height should be the same.

Report — Velocity Chart Graph

You can also see by the numbers to easily compare sprints.

Report — Velocity Chart Details


Migrating from a basic to-do list to jira-based to-do list isn’t really hard for me, because I’m familiar with Jira and still using it for my work. I’ve been using Jira-based to-do list for about 4 months until now, and I feel it has a big impact on my productivity improvement. It also provides various features and tools to track my task progress. There’s plenty of features that I haven’t explore yet, but I don’t know if I really need them right now because I’m only using Jira for my to-do list, while Jira is actually built for more complex things like project tracking.

For now, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved using my Jira-based to-do list and I encourage you to do the same. I hope we can break our limit and reach a higher level of productivity, whatever the method is. Choose the one that suits you best :)