So you’ve set your goal. You know you want to write that script, TV pilot, novel, or play. You’ve been working on it, but…you’re just not getting anywhere. What’s up with that?

There are some very specific things you can do to increase the chances of achieving your goal or goals.

Setting goals is great. However, most people set a big goal, such as writing a TV pilot. That’s a big, amorphous goal. It’s difficult to get your arms around it. The experts at the Individual Development Plan – a web-based career planning tool – suggest breaking up big goals into smaller, more understandable and achievable goals. They suggest a cool tool called the SMART principle (Goal Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success, Science, December 3, 2013), which has been widely used in business environments.

When breaking down a larger goal, the SMART principle suggests making it:

S – Specific – Is it focused and unambiguous?
M – Measureable – Could someone determine whether or not you achieved it?
A – Action-oriented – Did you specify the action you will take?
R – Realistic – Considering difficulty and timeframe, is it attainable?
T – Time-bound – Did you specify a deadline?

So for example, when writing a TV pilot, a writer could make “finish writing the treatment” a goal. That treatment is measurable. It is actionable. The writer could set a timeframe, say, a rough draft in a week or two weeks. The final draft could be due in a month’s time. There’s one SMART goal.

In The Hero Succeeds, I give you specific elements of a treatment, grid, TV pilot draft plus assignments within the treatment, grid, and TV pilot draft to accomplish. This approach helps to make those goals more manageable.

Another SMART goal could be “finish writing the pilot story grid.” The grid is measurable and actionable. The writer could set a timeframe, say the major landmark scenes in two days. That’s six scenes. The completed first draft of the grid in a week. The completed second draft of the grid in two weeks. A final draft of the grid in three weeks. That’s a second SMART goal.

Another SMART goal could be your outline. With the grid done, the outline will usually go fairly quickly. However, each writer is different so she should plan according to her needs. The outline is measurable and actionable. The outline time frame could be the first draft in a week and the final draft at the end of week two. That’s a third SMART goal.

Now comes the writing of the script! A SMART goal for the script may look like something like this: The complete pilot draft is measurable and actionable. The time frame could be the first 15 pages (or first quarter) in the first week, the second 15 pages (or second quarter) in the second week, the third 15 pages (or third quarter) in the third week, and the fourth 15 pages (or final quarter) in the fourth week.

This SMART goal setting is obviously for a one-hour drama, which can have 55-65 pages. A comedy will have 30-35 pages. Note that a drama could have more than 60 pages, so that final 15 pages in the goal may actually be a final 20 pages.

This target goal would have the writer writing approximately two pages each day Monday through Friday and two to three pages on Saturday and Sunday.

Breaking up large goals into smaller, actionable, and measureable goals makes them easier to accomplish. When you’re stuck on a project, think about focusing on smaller pieces. You’ll find putting your energy into a smaller, more manageable part of the project will help you make the progress you want. Before long, you’ll be crushing your goals.