Working in the tech industry, even as a designer, there is a lot of talk about side projects.
These are projects that you do in your own time and are added to your portfolio to either show skills you can not demonstrate in your working life or to show your love of the subject. (Or because you really want to do a thing.)
And if you can not think of your own problem to solve you can join a hackathon and work with a team instead.
This is all well and good and some great products have come out of side projects, but I would argue that for your own mental health doing something completely different in your spare time from what you do for (at least) 8 hours a day at work might be a better idea. I also believe this helps to make you more productive back at work.
For instance I find running a really good way to clear my head. Even 30 minutes through the fields near my house is a great way to allow my mind to wander and refresh.
I also love to make things. This might sound a bit close to my job as a designer but I think things like knitting or paper making use different skills from the ones I use at work, although they complement each other.
I find spending an evening crocheting squares for a blanket is a lovely way to wind down from a busy day and works particularly well if my husband is playing Xbox games at the same time, meaning we can still chat if we want, something I think the TV would prevent.
And my projects can still do good, for instance animal charities always need blankets, while Knit for Peace will pass knitted donations, anything from clothing and blankets to toys, on to people who need them in the UK and abroad.
I am not saying do not do side projects, all I ask is do they have to be in the same format as what you do at work?
If you would like to see more of my 'side' projects visit my Wild Creations blog.