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Why You Should Have Side Projects Even if You Have a Full-Time Job

For most of us, maintaining a perfect work/life balance is a goal we constantly aspire to reach. The reason is clear - leaning too much toward one end of the spectrum means the other side of it is suffering. When the two are balanced, however, they become greater than the sum of the parts, bringing satisfaction to our overall lives.

That's why you might be surprised to hear that one of the best things you can do for both your career and your personal life is to take on more work.

Just don't do it AT work.

No, what you should do start working on some side projects. It's definitely counterintuitive to think that taking on more work would be good for keeping work and life in good harmony, but as you'll see, side projects can take the traditional work/life balance and kick it into a higher gear.

Align your skills with a passion-fueled interest

Side projects, sometimes known as passion projects, are a powerful way to enrich your career and your life outside of work. The key is in allowing your side project to be the bridge between your professional skills and the passions that make you who you are outside of the office.

In a recent LinkedIn article, digital marketer Cole Watts explained that he fused his work skills with a personal interest of his to create a newsletter for professionals who want to network in his area of North Carolina. He noted that even though the project doesn't make him very much money, it has earned him a lot of attention and respect for both his professional and personal brand.

Companies are jumping on board with this idea too. Google has its now-famous 20 percent rule, which allows employees to use 20 percent of their time at work each week to pursue fun passion projects. This has resulted in more engaged and productive employees, and has also been the catalyst for several of Google's new products, as employees combined personal interests in GPS and mapmaking, email and other areas with their coding and product development skills.

As always, though, there is a major exception to this rule.

Whether your side project is a fusion of your work skills and personal interests, or a totally different creative venture, the benefits of it will have a ripple effect through your entire life.

Sometimes, your side project should have nothing to do with work

While aligning your work skills with your personal interests can make for a powerful career-enhancing combination, sometimes it pays to keep your side project totally separate from your work identity.

"By immersing yourself in a creative project and learning a new skill, you absorb the meta-lesson of how to learn any sort of skill."

According to PsyBlog, having a passion for photography, writing, cooking, art or any other creative endeavor can actually have a positive influence on your work, even if you are in a highly technical field. The results from a recent study from San Francisco State University showed that people who engaged in personal creative hobbies were more collaborative and creative in their work.

A creative passion-driven side project is different from a hobby because it has direction. There is a goal that you want to reach. Committing to creating a book of your own unique photography, or perfecting a delicious five-course meal for your friends not only allows you to express creativity, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and achievement that carries over into everything else you do.

What cannot be understated, however, is the effect that learning something new can have on how you perceive the world. Smashing Magazine wrote that understanding the processes that go into great cooking, painting, writing and other skills can show you new ways to think about your work. By immersing yourself in a creative project and learning a new skill, you absorb the meta-lesson of how to learn any sort of skill - something that will have a ripple effect throughout every part of your life.