My experience (as a relative novice) is that having my teachers say, of empty hand techniques, "This bit here is essentially a bokken strike" has helped me a *lot*. It helps just as much with left-hand as right-hand techniques, because once I get a feel for doing it correctly I know what I'm trying to do, whichever side it is.
This analogy has been particularly helpful with shihonage and zenpo-nage.
I still don't love bokken work. It makes my back ache and it's not as exciting as bare-hand. But I am coming to see why we bother.