I recently engaged in an experiment where I had to log everything I did for an entire week in increments of 15 minutes. This was a rather obnoxious process (for lack of a better term) at first. I will be honest, I was pretty bitter about it when I first engaged, but it was something I had to do for school in order to finish my internship, so the motivation was easy to be found. (side note: I am done with college!)
As annoying as I found this process to be, I did learn something from it that I will not forget. I was told that I would find something beneficial from it, but I thought it would be an attempt to point out how much time I waste each day, but that wasn't it (which isn't as much time as I have been accused of wasting).
There were times when I would find myself doing random things that aren't bad things, they were just things that don't amount to anything at the end of the day. Don't judge me, I know whoever is reading this right now was probably either on facebook before reading this or had plans to check it at the conclusion of this entry. When I would realize that it had been 15 minutes of doing nothing important or in some cases longer, the thing that would always come into my head is, "Make the next 15 minutes count. Do something productive."
I didn't even realize how many times I thought this same thing to myself, but it was a couple times a day. The thing I found interesting was that, no one really knew whether or not I had spent 15 minutes or sometimes even 30 minutes not doing anything productive, but I knew it. And there was nothing I could do about the past 15 minutes to change it, but I always had the next 15 to do something that would look good when I logged what I had done. When 15 minutes were up they were up, I couldn't get them back. Sometimes I had something to show for them, sometimes I had nothing, but no matter what I always had the next 15 minutes to do something.
Lesson learned: it doesn't matter what you have done that has been a waste of time in the past because you can't do anything about that. You can do something different in the next year. Make this next year count. There is no reason to lament what has already been done, just do things different from now on.
Jesus did the same thing with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Everyone wants to stone the girl for what she did, but Jesus bends down and speaks to her, but he doesn't condemn her like the audience might expect. He doesn't say, "shame on you" or "you should have done better than that." The woman knows that what she did was wrong, so these things would not be helpful for this lady. Jesus simply bends down and says, "I don't condemn you. Go and do things different." He just tells her, in my paraphrase, "you can't do anything about the past, so just do things different from now on. Make the next year, two years, or decade count, because that, you can control."
Jim Collins tells the story of a conversation he had with his mentor and his mentor told him to stop worrying about whether or not he would be successful and wealthy. He told him, "why don't you just go make yourself useful?"
So that is the challenge in the next year. It doesn't matter what you have done in the past, you still have the option of what to do with the next year. So make yourself useful.