Unless you're planning to leave your yard as a natural meadow, or replace the whole thing with concrete, you're going to have to put in some time and effort to keep it looking good. However, a bit of thoughtful, initial planning can cut down the maintenance required for a beautiful garden.
Lawns are often the most labor-intensive part of the yard, so if you're looking to minimize the work involved, perhaps you can minimize the amount of lawn you have to deal with. You generally need to mow your grass at least once a week during the growing season, and you probably spend extra time on trimming edges, watering and trying to encourage those areas where the grass never seems to do so well. Consider replacing some, or even all of your grassy area with “hardscape,” such as decking, tile or stone. You can plant ground-covers like moss, or other shade-loving plants in parts of the yard that don't get as much sun as grass needs. If poorer soil is the reason your grass is patchy in some places, find out what plants do thrive in that type of earth, and use them instead. Planning garden-bed shapes with your lawnmower in mind can save you time too.
Natives are a great way to save on garden-care, whether you use native grasses instead of traditional lawn, or put them in your flowerbed or hedge. Natives are plants that are naturally adapted to the conditions prevalent in your region, so they're the most likely to thrive with the least input from you.
Take the time to do some research before you start planting: Find out which parts of the yard get sun at what time of day, where does rainfall pool, and what areas are sheltered from snow. Now learn about the plants you want to grow: what water, soil and sun requirements do they have? These facts will help you design a garden that makes use of its natural microclimates: You won't be wasting time tending to struggling plants that don't have the conditions they need to thrive.