Personal projects are part of the moral fiber that makes us unique. They provide evidence of creativity, personality and enthusiasm for truly personal interests. (I have 30 days per year contractually carved out from my day job at Saatchi & Saatchi for personal projects.)
They’re also important in the workplace, and in many cases, could just be the thing that sets you apart from your colleagues, as pointed out by Chi Birmingham on 99U. Birmingham argues that personal projects “emphasize your personal style and way of thinking through pure expression.”
The idea of skunkworks and Google’s 20% time are well documented. You get the best from people if you give them rein to pursue their wider interests, passions and aspirations in a workplace setting.
Make time for your personal projects. I love the story of Charles Ives (1874 – 1954), one of the first American composers of international renown who to be regarded as an "American original." “Ives combined the American popular and church-music traditions of his youth with European art music, and was among the first composers to engage in a systematic program of experimental music, with musical techniques including polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatoric elements, and quarter tones, foreshadowing many musical innovations of the 20th century.”
His day job was as an insurance executive and actuary. “Ives devised creative ways to structure life-insurance packages for people of means, which laid the foundation of the modern practice of estate planning. His Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax, published in 1918, was well received. As a result of this he achieved considerable fame in the insurance industry of his time, with many of his business peers surprised to learn that he was also a composer.” (Thank you Wikipedia).