Moving away from traditional row planting and instead using small block plantings has cause me to be more efficient in what is grown, and has decreased the work associated with it. I'll choose snap beans as an example. Early in my gardening, perhaps would have grown two or three rows of bush green beans about 30 feet long. Each row had about 18 inches between, lots of real estate for weeding. Lots of access to sunlight for the weeds to sprout. Now instead I have two or three succession plantings of green beans in 4 foot by 6 foot or 4 x 4 blocks. There are perhaps 50 plants in that 24 square foot area. They provide all of the beans we can eat, for about three weeks. The 4 x 6 area is very easy to prepare, and when the beans start growing, weeding is virtually a non issue. There is simply no room for sunlight to penetrade or for weeds to grow strong between the bean plants in such an intensive style of planting. About three weeks after the first bed is planted, a second bed is planted. Three weeks later, a third bed is planted, and the first bed is cleared for a mid summer crop of some other vegetable. The blocks are constantly in use, have very little maintenance requirements other than watering.
Succession planting mentioned above is another work saver IMO. Instead of having one massive planting, we have several small plantings that provide a continuous stream of produce to satisfy our needs. If one block doesn't do well for some reason, there is a good chance that the next block planting will do well.
For me, if you get rid of the weeding chore and you get rid of the burden of massive harvests that come all at once, then gardening becomes a much more relaxing activity.
You have already touched on one last issue that I'll mention as well. Have posted earlier about the compulsive approach to gardening, which is not for me. Many books and some posters would have you think that there is one perfect way to do certain gardening tasks, such as composting for example. Yet when you read the threads at this forum, you come to see that composting can be done anywhere from a very inactive cold composting style to an active management of a hot compost pile. IMO and in those of many expressing the same idea, those materials no matter how applied to the yard and garden, will eventually go into the soil and become a rich supply of humus. My guess is that there is very little difference in the result coming from the hot compost pile or from the cold pile, yet the hot compost manager has spent many, many hours more than the relaxed, let nature and the earth worms do it, kind of gardener.
For me, gardening becomes a much more relaxing activity and less of a time burden, when the gardener finds that balance of gardening techniques that fall within his/her comfort zone. Once again for me, that happens by picking and chosing from the wide array of practices and ideas, and only using those that mesh with me and my personality.