I’ve been observing lately what it is that makes someone successful. Success for many people means money, and sure, that’s part of it (who doesn’t love money?). I mean truly successful – fulfilled in work and life, unbelievably productive, surrounded by amazing people and love and positive things, and yes – financial stability.

I look around me and it’s pretty easy to spot the people who are truly successful. You can look around you and do the same. I can also see some that are faltering. Look around – yep…there. And over there.

This post is not intended to “call people out” or be self-righteous in any sense. I’ve been trying to determine for myself how to gauge success in my own work. What I’m sharing here are some thoughts that I’m using to guide that.

I want you to look at the lists below, and put yourself into them. Go down each list, and put a little mental asterisk beside each thing you are doing on a day-to-day basis. It’s the day-to-day basis that’s critical here. Because what I’ve learned is, as much as it’s important to think long-term and big picture, it’s the actions you take every single day that will move you closer to your goals.

Real Work

  • Building relationships
  • Planning. Creating. Delivering. (These three go together. Always.)
  • Delegating
  • Building Trust
  • Maintaining Trust
  • Thinking about what’s possible.
  • Negotiating contracts

Not Real Work

  • Spending more time getting others real work than getting yourself real work. (i.e. being too helpful).
  • Going to every social or networking event in town or all over the country just because everyone else is.
  • Talking incessantly about the tools.
  • Talking about how busy you are.
  • Doing “busy” work just so you can be busy.
  • Thinking about what’s NOT possible.

How does your list balance out? Remember, think in the context of the activities you are doing every day. Do they constitute “Real Work”, or “Not Real Work”? If your balance is more in the ‘Not’ category, then I suspect you may be wondering why you are not getting any closer to those goals you set back in January.

Now, you might be thinking…sure this is fine and well in YOUR industry, Suze. This makes sense because you are an entrepreneur, a media producer, whatever. This is what YOU need to do to gauge YOUR productivity, YOUR success.

Try something. Pretend for a minute that you are want to be the most successful Bartender, professional hockey player, or  cab driver ever. Go down the list, as one of those people, and put it in context of what that person is doing on a daily basis. If that list was unbalanced, with most of the stuff in the “Not Real Work” category, how successful do you think they would be?

It’s not about how full your to-do list is. It’s not about the superstars you hang around with. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about being busy for the sake of “busy-ness”. It’s not about the reasons you can’t do it.

What’s holding you back from real success?