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What are Jira column limits and how do you set them?


Jack Wallen explains what Jira board column limits are and how you can implement them to ease the chaos in your project and issue management efforts.

Image: Vishal/Adobe Stock

Jira is a great tool for project and issue management. Not only is it powerful and flexible, but it also offers all of the features you need to create a reliable and focused tool to keep you and your teams moving forward.

Sometimes, though, things can get out of hand. Every manager and admin has been in those situations: Issues and tasks pile up until there seems to be no way to get out from under the growing mound of work. What do you do?

We all know there is no one answer to truly help such a situation. We all have our methods of coping with such stresses. However, if you happen to use Jira, there is something you can do. Set limits.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

I know what you’re thinking: “Easier said than done.” It’s both easy to say and do. But what are limits? Let me explain.

Let’s say you have a Jira board that contains several columns. Now, let’s imagine you have a column dedicated to trouble tickets for Widget X, which is in the development phase and is crucial to business. You have a team working on Widget X who happens to be very busy and are constantly adding cards to the column in your Jira board. Every day there’s a new card until that column has become a veritable mountain of issues. How do you convert that mountain into a molehill? Column limits.

A column limit is almost exactly what it sounds like — a cap on the number of cards that can be added to a column before an alert is triggered. The alert in question comes by way of a column highlight, which makes it very easy for a manager to glance at a board and see which columns have passed the thresholds you’ve created. You can then can give them the necessary attention they deserve.

If a team member needs to submit a card to a column that has passed its limit, that could be all the motivation that the staff member needs to clear a card from the column. Win-win. Let me show you how easy it is to set a column limit.

What you’ll need to set column limits in Jira

The only thing you need for this is a valid Jira account. This can be either a paid or free account, as the feature is available to both. You will also need a board to work with.

One thing to keep in mind is that column limits aren’t available to every Jira board. So far, I’ve found column limits to only appear in Jira Software Projects, and they are only of use in boards.

How to set a column limit in Jira

Log in to your Jira account and open the board in question. Locate the column for which you’d like to set a limit and hover your cursor over the top right corner. You should see a horizontal three-dot button appear (Figure A).

Figure A

Jira columns: "TO DO 2 ISSUES," "IN PROGRESS," and "DONE."
The Jira column menu button appears when you hover your cursor over the top right corner.

Click that button and then click Set Column Limit (Figure B).

Figure B

Click on the Jira column popup menu to reveal the limited set of options.
The column popup menu reveals a limited set of options, which includes Column limits.

In the resulting popup (Figure C), type the number that will serve as the column limit and click Save.

Figure C

"Column limit" popup on Jira.
Setting a column limit in Jira.

Once the column limit is set, if you add one card beyond that limit, the column will be highlighted by a color to warn you the limit has been passed (Figure D).

Figure D

The Jira column is glowing gold to notify the user when the column limit is surpassed.
Our column limit has been surpassed and the column is now glowing gold to make us aware.

That’s all there is to Jira column limits. Apply these limits wisely and you’ll find they can help you curtail the chaos as your project gets busier and busier.

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