I've worked some drastically varied design jobs over the years. Some with a lot of creative flow, and some with freezing environmental design vibes. Additionally, I've had many take aways from my work that I keep locked in my brain for Catharine O'Brien's Design Survival Guide. (That's a lot of apostrophes!) Microsoft Word is usually your worst enemy. Every element should have a purpose. And never use Papyrus. But my favorite piece of advice to tossing around is my "Off Hours" chapter of CODSG (reference above title).
Working off hours is awful and amazing all at once. You spend many hours every day staring at a computer, blinking less often as you should, and putting out fires. The last thing you want to do is come home and repeat that on your couch. And while I could list other activities to do other than work off hours, like binge watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S., eat a cup of raw almonds and then realize that's stupid and consume a whole bag of Doritos, or, you know, sleep, there are some benefits of working off hours.
• You get a chance to step back from required work projects and exercise your creative juices. Even through exhaustion, inspiration can reveal itself and everything can come together.
• Also, it keeps you fresh-minded. Working on what you want and directing your own decisions can be relief and a common denominator to remind you of what you love. Surprise! There are times when your required work can have a lack of glamor and seem tasking. Letting loose and doing something different can keep you grounded and passionate.
• It only adds to your portfolio. Even if it's an icon that was created for fun or off hours, it doesn't mean it's not worth showing.
In all, my "Off Hours" work can be strained and amazing and show-able and real. Sometimes it sucks, but sometimes I surprise myself. Don't forget to push yourself occasionally and never dread the off hours.