Before Mari Takahashi joined entertainment company Smosh, her job was ballet dancing, and her career aspiration was to make a living teaching dance. Now she's in charge of Smosh Games, a YouTube channel with over seven million subscribers, where she regularly appears in videos such as her Minecraft show MariCraft. She told us how she gets her work done, the tools she uses, and about being strategic but flexible.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Current Gig: Executive producer and host at Smosh Games
One word that best describes how you work: Obsessively
Current mobile device: iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S7
Current computer: Microsoft Surface Book and Maingear R1
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I was a full-time professional ballerina in the San Francisco Bay Area who worked odd jobs and taught ballet to supplement my income. I took a gig for an internet channel that called for someone who spoke Japanese - little to my knowledge, it was for an iconic YouTube channel called Smosh. Next thing you know, I'm the third member of their ensemble and a one-woman show: Producing, writing, editing and hosting my own show, Smosh Pit Weekly. Two years in, we started a gaming channel that's still going strong with seven million subscribers.
I thought I was going to do ballet for as long as my body could handle it and then teach ballet until I died. An unexpected door opened up during the process and I've been walking this unconventional path ever since.
Take us through a recent workday.
I wake up at 8, meditate, play a brain game (Sudoku or solitaire), listen to a podcast in Japanese while stretching, then I shuffle through emails and bullet journal. I get to the office at 10, grab a coffee, and start recording gaming videos at 10:30. I catch up on social media and zone out to an episode of The Office during our lunch break.
Then it's back to recording more videos until our 4PM wrap. I stay until 6:30 (or 8, or maybe 9) hammering out emails, setting up meetings, or sitting around throwing ideas out for future videos. The evening is reserved for recharging over dinner and a movie with my fiancé.
Mari's desk. Photo: Mari Takahashi
What apps, gadgets or tools can't you live without?
Google Calendar to keep our entire team's schedules updated and visible... also, a Moleskine notebook. As easy as it is to rely on digital forms, I find journaling, brainstorming and creating lists to work better for me when it's analogue.
What's your workspace setup like?
At home I have a clean, bright, minimalist setup. At the office, my high-powered gaming PC is surrounded by an explosion of geeky figurines, game consoles, and balls of cords that attach to something important (I'm sure).
The Smosh Games team. Photo: Smosh Games
What's your best shortcut or life hack?
I don't put on makeup on a daily basis any more (even if I'm filming) thanks to microblading, and that saves a minimum of 15 minutes a day, every day. Hacks that save time are a priority.
Take us through an interesting, unusual or finicky process you have in place at work.
We almost always know how a video will start but never how it ends. Ideas that we think are set in stone will morph because our videos aren't scripted. We're playing games and experiencing things in real time and it's more like a long-form improv game that zigs and zags and whips around. Is it careless? No, but being strategic doesn't mean you can't be loose.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
I make sure the people closest to me are those who keep me humble, influence me to work harder, be better, and aren't afraid to call me out on my bullshit.
Mari's laptop, phone, and bullet journal. Photo: Mari Takahashi
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
My bullet journal is my life. It keeps me sane... and organised! It's like a cork board full of Post-It notes, cocktail napkin doodles, Polaroids and business cards all rolled up into a notebook. Also, there just isn't a digital method of crossing something off your to-do list that's as satisfying as running a line through it with a pen.
What's your least favourite thing to do, and how do you deal with it?
I hate working out but I love movement. Going to the gym repeating mundane bicep curls is pure torture, but yoga, circus arts, or dance classes that allow me to be creative and active simultaneously are divine. I guess I have to trick myself into working out, which is why I've been able to dump almost 30 years into ballet!
How do you recharge or take a break from work?
I stretch, move, run around, have a Nerf battle, or roll around on the floor.
What's your favourite side project?
Finding ways to use my social media to talk about climate change and space exploration has become a huge passion of mine. I'm not a science expert, but engaging in conversations as a fan and advocate has been awesome. I'm hoping to work more closely with organisations to create more of an impact.
Mari in the studio. Photo: Smosh Games
What are you currently reading, or what's something you'd recommend?
Gary Vaynerchuck's Crushing It!
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
It's a mantra that I constantly struggle to abide by, but completely stand by: Done is better than perfect. The perception of perfection oftentimes stifles projects and visions to just simply get done. Perfection is an illusion - just get 'er done!
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be doing an interview for Lifehacker because I've made a name for myself in gaming. Enjoy the windy strange path that life has to offer and learn from every experience. Life is dope if you take those diamond-in-the-rough opportunities - this ballerina's a believer.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.