Jack has a lot to look forward to in the coming new year, if he could only solve one problem. Already an in-demand business consultant, prominent speaker, and bestselling author, he expects massive growth in his personal brand and business. He plans to leverage new platforms to reach and help even more entrepreneurs than he already has. He has a clear, step-by-step blueprint to accomplish all this.

But here's the problem: Jack already works 60 to 70 hours every week! How will he have the bandwidth to implement his shiny, new business plans?

Good Advice, But Not Enough

You've probably heard of Stephen Covey's advice to put "first things first." Put the "big rocks" of your life and business first. If not, the smaller things will occupy your busy schedule and take time away from the most important stuff. And so productivity experts advice us to tackle the most essential tasks first.

But if you've tried to follow this rule, you know it's not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, less important but urgent matters sometimes crop up, and they demand your attention - now. Sometimes you find yourself preoccupied with putting out fires. Whether literally or figuratively, a fire is an enormous rock that trumps everything else!

The bigger problem is when you simply have too many big rocks. It's a simple rule of physics: a finite number of rocks fits in a mason jar. Even if you arranged and rearranged the big rocks, left out the pebbles and the sand, and eliminated the water altogether, that jar would hold only so many rocks.

Many people who make New Year resolutions forget this. They resolve to go to the gym for one hour, three times a week. They resolve to increase their income by starting a side project. Or they resolve to eat healthier by ditching takeout and preparing their own meals instead. They don't realize they need to make time for these resolutions. No wonder only 8% of those who make New Year resolutions succeed.

How to Succeed with Your New Year Resolutions

That success rate would be higher if people listened to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits when he said, "Keep your list of big rocks short." Don't try to cram so many big rocks in your very limited jar; choose your big rocks wisely.

You can set yourself up for success with your New Year resolutions by making room in your calendar for all the things you want to accomplish. You can do this in two steps:

1. Cull your calendar.

Look at your obligations in the coming year and cancel as many as you can. Scrutinize every meeting, event, membership, project, commitment, and trip you've planned. Which ones are absolutely necessary? Which ones can you delegate? Which ones do not align with your goals? You'll find that you don't have to attend all those weekly meetings, keep sitting on that board, or go to so many events. Clear them out of your calendar.

2. Make appointments with yourself.

Block off at least one day every month for yourself (every two weeks would be even better). Use this day for learning. Read those books that have been on your wishlist for months that you haven't had time for. Or perform a mini tuneup of your business and your life. Reflect on what you've accomplished and what you want to execute in the coming weeks. Analyze what worked and what didn't. Or, set aside the day to work on an unexpected opportunity you didn't originally plan for.

Clear your calendar before the new year, and you'll have a better chance of accomplishing all your wonderful plans. Aside from creating space in your calendar, this practice also makes space in your mind. Your focus and decision-making will improve. Not only will you have a better capacity to implement your plans, you'll also have headroom for whatever exciting, emerging, valuable opportunities come to you.

Published on: Dec 23, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.