Work With (or Avoid) the Wind
If you have the leisure to choose your raking day, try to pick a calm one so there's no wind to interfere with your work. If you have only one day of the week to rake and it happens to be windy, rake your leaves in the same direction that the wind is blowing. Raking into the wind just helps the breeze pick up your leaves and blow them around.
Clear your pathways and high-traffic areas of leaves on an ongoing basis, but don't bother raking your whole yard until all the leaves are down. It might bother you to sit idly by and let the leaves pile up, but waiting until the branches are bare will save you hours of work. Be patient and get the yard work done when it's necessary, not every week.
Use the Right Tools
That rusty metal fan rake in your shed might seem like an old friend, but perhaps its useful days are over. Some great new raking tools out there, such as the Lee Valley Power Rake, and can save you lots of time on yard work. There are also rake alternatives, including push-power leaf collectors that help take some of the backache out of raking.
Take Care of Your Body
Speaking of backache, be sure to practice proper raking technique before, during, and after your work. Raking is a real workout, and you need to warm up your body by stretching before you start.
While you're raking, be sure to keep a good posture and stand upright. Switch your main (bottom) hand on a regular basis, and always bend at the knees (not the back) when you stoop to pick up a pile.
Also, don't try to do too much at once. Divide your yard into sections and work on them over a period of days. Or, if you have limited time, take breaks in between each section to drink water and rest.
This is the key to efficient raking. Rake your leaves into small piles on top of a tarp or a piece of plastic, then drag that pile to your main pile or compost. Raking all the leaves into a single, big pile takes extra time, and when it's done, you have to move the big pile off your lawn to another location.
Rake When It's Dry
This one is simple but important. Wet leaves are heavier than dry ones, so try to do your raking during a dry stretch of weather. This will not only save you time and energy, but also prevent you from handling a morass of slimy, wet leaves.
Use a Mulching Mower
This is kind of like cheating but is ultimately an effective way to clean up your leaves by turning them into mulch that's bagged by the mower. If you don't like the smell, sound, or environmental impact of gas mowers, there are some great electric mowers out there that have mulching capability.