I just did this on my 2001 yesterday - I didn't think it was easy, but then again I'm only capable of relatively easy stuff on my 12R (ie oil change, filter clean, pilot jet mot, brake service etc etc).
It took me about 30 minutes per spark - the biggest issue is getting the coil sticks off. Some people have reported that their coil sticks came off easy, well I can tell you that mine were stuck on like a bitch. I don't want to go off on a tangent here, but some sparks I've seen have a thread at the top where the coil stick makes an electrical connection. The ones I removed had this thread and it grips on real tight to the sprung connectors in the coil. Others types of the NGK spark just have a small lip and no thread. Indeed, when I went to the shop to get the sparks based on the recommend NGK sparks (CR9EK-PA) I noticed they were then type without the thread. Hence, I went on the net and found out that the iridium type is CR9EIX and they have they threaded part (check out the picture here NGK.com - Application Search Results
As some people have said, removing the plastic and rubber covers will make your life easier, but I'd recommend you leave them there because they are effectively stopping dirt, moisture and other sh*t getting down the side of the stick coil where it will end up in the top of your engine the minute you take the spark plug out. I noticed moisture on the side of one of my stick coils and (more concerningly) some oil on another (that's a differnent story). Plus, as I describe below, the plastic anchor piece has been sneakily designed to allow you to get to the stick coils without removing it.
The key to getting the stick coils off is to use a large flat blade screw driver and put it under the connector seat that sticks out of the side of the coil and then twist the flat-blade to pop the coil off. When you pop of the first coil you instantly realise from the force required that there was no way you were ever going to do it by hand like other people have said they do (like I say, this might be down to the different types of spark plug top). One thing that I noticed is that the plastic cover for the rubber mat has a neat-feature - a little channel under it that allows you to get a flat-blade screwdriver to the middle sparks by putting the screw driver under the piece of the plastic cover that sits in-between the middle and outer sparks (on both sides).
After that, you wrestle out the stick coil then put the spark plug in with the special angled tool and off you go. The two outer sparks are obviously easier than the inner ones - but you have to wrestle with everything throughout the entire job because it is just so tight. This is why it takes so long. I also took off the petrol cover, seat, ram air covers and lower fairing (that's a half hour straight away just to take them off and put them back on). I also removed the coolant expansion tank to be able get to flat-blade screwdriver under the plastic cover and in to the left-middle stick coil.
I'm no idiot, but I also am not capable of doing complex stuff on a bike. For my level of expertise, this was a reasonably difficult job the first time around. Like everything though, having done it once I think I would find it quite easy the next time I do it.
Hope this helps,