Perhaps the greatest struggle for men today, be they students, priests, or dads, is distraction. Modernity bombards us with incessant opportunities for diversion. Ads, apps, Netflix, YouTube, social media and the constant impulse to check our phones are but a few nagging temptations. Staying continuously on task at work and emotionally present at home requires more self-discipline than most of us can muster.

The struggle is real.

One of the traditional ways of remaining organized and staying on task is the use of a planner. For a long time I used the Evernote app to assist me in that department. It’s a solid program – and there are some neat features – but at the end of the day, the digital format led me to minimize the app once I’d added something to the checklist and wander onto Facebook, Gmail or the Drudge Report, thereby wasting more time.

At the beginning of the year I saw an advert for the Catholic Planner. It promised the utility of a traditional planner with the added value of a liturgical calendar, weekly gospel readings, profiles of saints, and areas for reflection, accountability and brainstorming. I decided to give it a try. Here’s my take on the product:

Cons:

Price – When I ordered in January the total came out to nearly $40. That’s a steep price for something that isn’t leatherbound. (Fortunately, it appears the price has been reduced since then).

Delivery – The entrepreneur behind the product didn’t anticipate heavy demand. He quickly ran out, so most of the orders became delayed while he waited for a new shipment from the supplier. As such, my planner took weeks to arrive. Annoying, but ultimately not that big of a deal. Presumably everything is going smoothly now.

Pros:

Design: The Catholic Planner is aesthetically pleasing. It looks professional and feels sturdy enough to last through the year. The layout is also nicely organized and easy to navigate. 

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Utility: It does the job. I’m more organized than I was with Evernote, and I find I enjoy manually writing things out more that typing them into a program. It makes me more likely to remember obligations, even if I fail to look at the calendar on a given day.

Spiritual Assistance: This, of course, is the main selling point for the Catholic Planner. I’ve enjoyed being able to write out reflections on the Gospel reading for each Sunday, answer what I’m grateful for, and use the planner to keep me more spiritually accountable. It was particularly helpful in that regard during Lent, as I could mark whether or not I’d met my pledged abstentions each day.

Community: A large Catholic Planner community has developed on Facebook, and many people share creative ways in which they’ve used or personalized their planners. Many also share prayer requests and positive thoughts. I’ve enjoyed checking in on the group from time to time.

Buying Catholic: As Catholics we should shop Catholic and support our own whenever possible. The founder of Catholic Planner, Victor Delacruz, is a young man who built a solid product from the ground up and appears to have a good head on his shoulders. I’m happy to fork over a few extra bucks to support his small business venture instead of Barnes & Noble or Office Depot.

 
For those interested in the product but not wanting to buy a new calendar this far into 2016, check out the academic planner. It begins with the new school year in August.