How YouTrack Personal Agile Board Helped Me to Be Better Organized

Disclaimer: I work for JetBrains as a Product Marketing Manager for IntelliJ IDEA, but this article isn’t about selling you YouTrack. Granted, at JetBrains, we’re all using it for our daily tasks, because it’s a good issue tracker, but I personally can’t say I am one of its big fans.

Another thing this article isn’t about is convincing you to start using Scrum, Kanban, Agile or anything like that because I myself kind of against following any formal processes just for the sake of it (which applies to the most of people at JetBrains).

So what’s it about? Let’s start with that I found Kanban board (detached from Agile) very helpful in the aspect of organizing myself and the tasks I get to deal with.

Being a Product Marketing Manager means that in addition to my own tasks I need to coordinate other teams which work is relevant to my product. I’m involved in releases, marketing campaigns, events, development and many other activities. On a daily basis, I collaborate with developers, designers, evangelists, researchers, sales, marketing specialists, and dozens of other teams and people. The sheer number of these communications is so massive that without a proper tool I’d be buried under tons of emails and paper notes.

Before I discovered YouTrack Agile Board, I’ve been using Trello to help me organize my tasks. Trello is brilliant, very simple, flexible, and does exactly what it promises. I have to admit that the word “Agile” was one of the reasons I kept myself away from YouTrack Agile Board (well, that, and it’s ugly interface, which, by the way, was improved in YouTrack 7.0). Nevertheless, I would still have used Trello, if not for one thing.

Most of the issues I coordinate were (and still are) YouTrack issues. This means that if I wanted to use Trello, I had to link every Trello card to a YouTrack issue — which I did for some time until Valery from the YouTrack team has shown me that all I did with Trello is possible with YouTrack.

This is how my board looks now:

This is how my board looks now.

Columns represent state of my tasks. Rows represent their types or the team that the task is relevant to.

For more convenience, the first row on my board is called TODO and lists my own tasks. This way I can always stay focused and easily find the status of other tasks I coordinate.

The board contains not just all tasks, but only those that are important at the current moment. To add more tasks, I simply click Backlog and select whatever I need from a Saved Search:

I can also add an issue to the board right from its details page–by clicking Plus icon below the Boards widget which is located on the right side of the page:

Mostly boards are usually used for organizing the work inside a team, but a personal board is a great tool for organizing your own work in a team–especially when it involves many projects.

To create a personal board, simply list the projects you want and assign yourself as the only person who can see or manage the board:

The rest is quite easy: configure a Saved Search to use as a Backlog, configure columns, rows and card color scheme:

A nice thing about YouTrack boards is that they have a Search field which helps you filter your tasks:

One more nice thing about the boards (which as well relates to the rest of YouTrack) is that they allow you to quickly change selected issues with the help of the keyboard. Just start typing a command and YouTrack opens a Command dialog, and when you’re done, press Enter to let YouTrack apply your input:

I hope you’ve found the boards great and helpful (just as I did), but let’s speak briefly about some limitations they have.

  • To be able to add issues from a project to a board, you need to have the Update Issue permission for the that project.
  • Currently YouTrack doesn’t allow you have tasks of different states in one column. Vote for https://youtrack.jetbrains.com/issue/JT-36966 to get it fixed.
  • Rows are called Swimlanes in YouTrack and can be configured either based on the issue’s field values or as parent issues:YouTrack doesn’t allow to have swimlanes configured based on the issue’s project. Vote for https://youtrack.jetbrains.com/issue/JT-21914 to get it fixed.
  • You can’t limit visibility of such parent issues used as swimlanes to the visibility of the board. Vote for https://youtrack.jetbrains.com/issue/JT-37557 to get it fixed.
  • It’s also not always convenient to use swimlanes configured based on parent issues, because sometimes you may want to use another parent for your issue — that has nothing to do with your board. If you do that, the issue may get orphan. I talked to the YouTrack team and they promised me to address it. Vote for https://youtrack.jetbrains.com/issue/JT-35136 to get improved.
  • Search doesn’t start until you press Enter, and sometimes takes too long to respond and present actual results. I hope the YouTrack team is reading this and will do something to improve this.

Also, I’m a very big fan of dark interfaces. YouTrack doesn’t provide one just yet. Thus I made a my own dark theme for YouTrack. If you’re a Chrome user, you can install it with help of User CSS–just paste the CSS from the gist and enjoy the dark mode:

That’s it for today. The rest, if you’re interested, can easily be found in the official YouTrack documentation. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. Feel free to leave your comments.