There are two aspects to any action. The first is to perform the action efficiently, perfectly. However perfectly an action may be performed there is always room for improvement. Hence the saying, ‘The largest room in the world is the room for improvement!’ The second aspect is the attitude with which the action is performed. Perfection in action is rather difficult but perfection in attitude is possible. If we perform actions with the right attitude, then however small or big the action, it will become great. This is beautifully illustrated by the famous squirrel in the Ramayana, who out of love for Sri Rama tried to help the monkeys build the bridge across the ocean. The squirrel first wet itself in the water, then rolled in the sand and shook off the grains of sand on the bridge. This irritated the monkeys but Sri Rama understood the squirrel’s desire to assist in this great endeavour.
So only right actions (performing one’s obligatory duties) performed with the right attitude can be termed as karma yoga; otherwise it is merely karma, action.