By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

When Not to Use a Checklist in Jira

Checklists are a powerful, but lightweight way to breakdown tasks in Jira, but there are times when you shouldn’t use a checklist.
min. read
Aug 11, 2022

As the makers of Issue Checklist for Jira, it stands to reason that we’re big fans of using checklists. They’re a powerful, but lightweight way to manage tasks, track your acceptance criteria, ensure completed stories meet the definition of done, and keep your backlog in check.

But even we are willing to admit that a checklist is not always the right tool for the job. In some cases, you’re better off creating a subtask. In other cases, what you really need is a form. Here are some examples of when not to use a checklist.

Create a Jira Subtask When…

The Task is Ambiguous

If it’s not clear exactly what needs to be done, then you’ll have trouble expressing it in a nice, concise checklist item. If the scope and specifications are still being debated then you’ll probably want to to create a subtask so your team can collaborate in the comment section.

Note that while comments are an easy way for teams to discuss an issue, they aren’t particularly easy to scan for relevant points. If the comment chain gets very long, it can be time-consuming to comb through. For complex discussions and recording decisions, you may want to create a linked Confluence page where you can easily capture everyone’s thoughts as well as the final decision.

The Task is Big

If multiple people are going to be working on the task (simultaneously or consecutively), if it has its own collection of attachments, or if it’s going to take days to complete, it should probably be its own issue. Creating a separate issue also makes the task more visible - it will have its own card on the board, so it stays on the radar of project leads and scrum masters. As a separate issue, you’ll also be able to share the task with someone who may not need to see everything that was on the original checklist.

You Want to Estimate/Track Time on the Task

If you want to estimate the work (either time or story points) needed for a task, or want users to be able log work on the task, then you’ll need to create an issue or subtask. Note that while you can log work on subtasks, Jira isn’t designed to for you to make estimations on subtasks. The estimates should be on the parent stories.

Use a Form When…

You Need Multiple Field Types

Checklists can be boolean – checked or not, or have a status. The fact that you can add user mentions, due dates, links and clickable issues keys greatly expands the ways you can use checklists. However, if you need to collect data of multiple field types, you’ll need to use custom fields or forms.  Atlassian has different options for creating forms depending on the project type:

  • Jira Work Management – JWM allows you to create one form per project. The forms can be used by people outside of the team to create issues (sort of like a slimmed down version of JSM). The JWM form builder uses a drag and drop interface and limited fields which vary depending on the project template.
  • Jira Service Management – In JSM you can create multiple forms per project, and can even have multiple forms on a single issue. Along with allowing you to use multiple field types (text, date, radio buttons, user-picker, etc.), the Confluence-style form builder has some nifty features like conditional logic and validation.
  • Jira Software – To use forms in Jira Software projects, you’ll need to get help from the Atlassian Marketplace.


Jennifer Choban

Join us on Social Media!